who has seen Steve Davis and Joe Davis at the match table
has been asked the same question:
'Who was the better player?'
have lost count of the times I have been asked this question
because of my association with Steve and the fact that, while
I didn't get to know Joe as well as I would have liked, I
did watch him play several times - even as an opponent in
can be odious in any game, but they are all the more so in
snooker, which has changed so much since Joe first put the
sport on the map.
Davis had to learn about snooker on his own. There was no
television to help him or other senior players to show him
the shots, methods, and various techniques. He had to find
out for himself, and on top of that Joe was in his thirties
before taking up the game seriously, having concentrated on
billiards in his earlier years.
won the first World Professional Championship in 1927 and
then virtually had to look around for opponents. He held the
title for twenty years, but preferred not to play in the Championship
for the remaining eighteen years of his career.
Joe won his titles on tables which had tighter pockets than
they have today. They were the standard 3 & 1/2 inches, but
there was no undercut of the rubber at the entrance. This
made potting that much more difficult, particularly at narrow
angles or along the cushion.
addition the balls were heavier, which made each shot more
difficult if position had to be obtained as well, because
the harder you hit the ball, the less accurate you tended
to become. Although technically speaking the difference in
weight was not that great, it was appreciable in terms of
was lucky in that, as a young teenager, he had his father
to guide him in the right manner when he decided to take up
the game seriously. Together, they studied Joe's book, and
while in the end they didn't agree with everything it contained,
it gave them a sound basis on which to work. Steve's parents,
to their credit, gave him every opportunity to pursue his
career and there was no way his father would allow things
to be done half-heartedly.
His motto was simple: 'lf a job's worth doing, it's worth
Steve never looked back. Later, Barry Hearn came on to the
scene to become Steve's manager. Steve has had all the advantages
of Barry's business acumen and the facilities available to
him at Romford. It was a very successful apprenticeship and
toughened him up to withstand the greater pressures the game
had in store for him, as compared with those Joe had faced
half a century earlier.
has organized Steve so well that all he has to worry about
is his game!
Davis was under constant threat from a huge army of professional
players. Again, that is something Joe never experienced during
his playing career, at the end of which there was no more
than seven or eight playing; of those only one, his own brother
Fred, was capable of posing a real threat. Indeed, for several
seasons, Fred was every bit as good as Joe in my opinion.
Because of these differing circumstances therefore, it is
not easy for me to say that one player emerges as superior
to the other. But if we could put Joe in the same environment
as Steve after he had won his first world title, I simply
cannot believe he would have had a better record.
It's history now that Steve has gone on to win five further
world championships, so if you twist my arm I would have
to put my money on Steve. But having said that, Joe would
still have been among the top players of today. What I am
sure about is that the two of them had very much in common
besides their surname.
were fully dedicated to snooker and fine ambassadors for the
sport. Snooker owes a very great deal to Joe Davis, not only
because he was a world champion, but also because the knowledge
of the game conveyed through his books has benefited so many
is an amazing coincidence that two of the best players the
world has ever seen should have the same surname.
The surname Davis will always be synonymous with the game
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