Stafford “Buzz” Barton was 29 years old when his plane went down over the Mediterranean theatre in early January of 1944. A native of Jamaica, the affable middleweight had moved to Britain in December of 1936, and had been quick to do his part in the defense of his adopted homeland when war broke out a few years later.
Barton, whose father worked as an editor for The Daily Gleaner in Kingston, had been an apprentice linotype-operator for the paper and likely had opportunities beyond pugilistic pursuits, but he chose fighting as a way to make a living. One of a quartet of Jamaican boxers active in the U.K. during the late thirties, he was a powerful hitter, though more of a boxer by nature. He kept locals abreast of the foursome’s exploits by sending clippings from the British sports pages home, while adding his own notes. On one occasion, after a defeat, he admitted it was an occasional tendency of his to wait too long before letting his hands go.
Barton made quite a splash during his first year abroad, recording a number of solid wins, including a knockout of former British champion Dave McCleave, while fighting regularly at The Ring in Blackfriars, London. By early 1938 he had established himself as one of the leading contenders for the British Empire crown, though the “colour bar” blocked his name from consideration and hand injuries eventually limited his potential.
Frank Butler of The Daily Express offered these words upon learning Barton’s fate in early 1944…
It is confirmed that Stafford Barton, the likeable middle-weight champion of Jamaica is missing from air operations in the Near East. Barton was exceptionally intelligent for a boxer. The news emphasizes the disgraceful ruling of British boxing that a coloured citizen is not allowed to box for a title of the country for which he is prepared to fight and die.
Back home in Jamaica, boxing referee Gordon Scotter paid tribute to Barton after the fighter’s death was confirmed in April.
One of the best middleweight boxers Jamaica has produced, Buzz was a clean, colourful and courageous fighter; I think I refereed every fight of his in Jamaica and I never remembered at any time having even to caution him for foul or dirty fighting.
He did his bit from the start of the war, first as an Air Raid Warden during the great blitz, later as a Bombardier in the R.A.F.
We can be sure that Buzz died as he fought, cleanly and courageously.