Burnham, Hatton and Crolla to play celebrity football match for Len Johnson statue

Manchester’s championship boxer will be recognised with a statue in Manchester city centre.

By Emma Davidson | Last updated 11 April 2023

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Manchester-born boxing legend Len Johnson will be remembered at a star-studded charity football match set to take place on Saturday 27 May at FC United’s Broadhurst Park home. 

The match has been organised to raise money for a new statue of the city’s uncrowned boxing legend almost half a century after his death. The statue is an ongoing project of Lamin Touray, a Manchester-based actor and local community activist who wants to commemorate the boxer in Manchester city centre. 

Len Johnson was the Mohammed Ali of Manchester. Image: Lamin Touray.

Johnson had a remarkable yet untold boxing career which saw him win over 100 matches, but he never got the chance to fight for a championship belt because of the “Rule 24” law in boxing at the time. The law stated that any title contender must have two white parents, which is something Johnson didn’t have, being born to a father from Sierra Leone and a mother from Ireland. 

Alongside his career in the ring, Johnson also became a prominent figure in the fight for civil rights and anti-racism. He constantly campaigned for diversity and acceptance in British boxing and wider society up until his death in 1974. It’s this legacy that Touray wants to commemorate with the hometown statue, which the May charity match aims to raise funds for. 

Taking place at FC’s ground Broadhurst Park, the charity fundraising game will be led by boxers Anthony Crolla and Ricky Hatton. Local names taking part in the match include Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, two weight world champion Carl Frampton, Manchester City legend Stephen Ireland, Soccer AM goalkeeper and media personality Big G, Sky sports presenter Kyle Walker and local Mancunian rapper Tays. Coronation Street and Hollyoaks stars are also expected to be announced as part of the game, in which the celeb team “Len Johnson FC All Stars” will go head-to-head with FC United Legends on Saturday 27 May.

All funds made from the game will go toward the implementation of Johnson’s statue in Manchester.

“FC United are incredibly proud to be hosting this event, hoping to raise crucial funds for the statue and to celebrate our collective Mancunian history. Len’s story, both in the ring and out, fits with our values as a club born out of protest and defiance to fight back,” said a spokesperson for FC United.

Touray added: “We had our very own Ali right here in Manchester. We’re buzzing to be able to spread awareness about Len, and make him a household name. He’s the true Mancunian unsung sporting hero as far as I’m concerned and we’re excited to get the charity match underway!”

The match kicks off at 2pm on Saturday 27 May. Tickets are £15 for adults, £12 for FC United Members or £5 for Juniors and £3 for FC United Members.


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