Page 1: Biography
This biography, written by N. A. C. McMillan, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.
Edward Morgan was born in London, England, on 5 April 1906, the son of a labourer, William Edward Morgan, and his wife, Amelia Eliza Davis. When he was about a year old his parents emigrated to New Zealand, settling in Wellington. Ted, as he was known, attended Te Aro School and went on to Wellington College, where he showed considerable promise as a boxer. He was runner-up in the college bantamweight championship in 1921 and in the lightweight class the following year. After leaving school at the end of 1922 he was apprenticed to a plumber. He joined Tim Tracy’s gymnasium, where he gained a reputation as a two-fisted fighter who kept after his opponents and bustled them into errors.
A southpaw, Morgan stood five feet nine inches tall, and weighed between 9 and 10½ stone during his fighting career. He won the Wellington amateur lightweight championship in 1925 and went on to take the national title. He retained his Wellington championship the following year, but was surprisingly beaten in the semi-finals at the New Zealand championships. In 1927 he regained the national title and was so impressive that he gained selection for the New Zealand team to compete at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. The team spent some time in England on the way to Amsterdam and while sparring in London Morgan dislocated the first knuckle of his left hand. The injury was still troubling him when he began his Olympic campaign.
Although selected as a lightweight, Morgan had to box in the welterweight class at the games as he had put on weight during the voyage from New Zealand. His first opponent was a Swede, Selfrid Johannson, whom he knocked out in the second round. Romano Canova of Italy was next, and the New Zealander scored an easy points victory. These successes gave Morgan a place in the semi-finals, and although his injured hand was still bothering him, he convincingly out-pointed René Catalaud of France to proceed to the final. Here he faced Paul Landini, an experienced Argentinian noted for his ability to knock out opponents. However, Morgan out-boxed Landini to score a unanimous points victory, thus becoming the first New Zealand representative to win an Olympic gold medal.
Ted Morgan received offers from British and American promoters to box professionally but, perhaps unwisely, he turned them down. Properly trained and managed, he could have enjoyed a successful career overseas. In July 1929 he took out a professional licence in New Zealand and fought in the cash ranks for five years. In 1930 he beat Billy Grime and Tommy Fairhall, two well-performed boxers, but on the whole his results were disappointing. He spent a short time in the United States, where he won three minor bouts, and in 1931 he became New Zealand welterweight champion when he stopped Reg Trowern in two rounds. Morgan then went to Australia for two bouts, both of which he lost, and in October 1934 he was beaten by Don Stirling in a welterweight title fight. This was his last appearance in the ring. Of his 26 professional bouts, he won 13, lost 11 and drew two; he lost only two amateur contests.
After retiring from boxing Morgan owned and managed a successful plumbing business in Wellington’s Cuba Street. He maintained his links to the sport, however, giving long service to the Wellington Boxing Association as a referee. On 12 April 1933, in Wellington, he married Norma Wilson, who had competed at the 1928 Olympic Games as a sprinter. Although Ted was described as a quiet, retiring man, the marriage was a turbulent one and ended in divorce in 1938; there were no children. On 10 November 1945, again in Wellington, he married Jannet Elizabeth Reynolds; they were to have a son and a daughter.
Ted Morgan died at Wellington on 22 November 1952, aged 46; he was survived by his wife and children. He died of lung cancer brought on by the inhalation of fumes during his work as a plumber. While his professional career never reached the heights of his 1928 success, Morgan’s Olympic victory assured him of an important place in New Zealand sporting history.