The below article was originally published by topclassboxing.co.uk who have kindly agreed to me republishing my work on Y Ddraig, thanks again guys.
As a proud Welshman and a big boxing fan, I have written an article on the rich history of Welsh boxing and in particular those who have reached the pinnacle in their chosen profession. Over three articles I will list the 12 men who have held aloft world title belts at their respective weights, a brief biography on the fighters themselves, and then in my final article, going from respected historians and what I know, list my top 5 of all time (brave or what).
So in order of world champions, first to last, here are the boxers who became Welsh world champions.
Percy Jones – World Flyweight Champion 1914.
Percy Jones was born in Porth and became World Champion in 1914 beating Bill Ladbury from England on ironically for a boxer, Boxing Day. Jones also became that day, not just World Champion but also British and European Flyweight Champion. Jones defended his belt once but then lost to Tancy Lee. World War One interrupted Jones boxing career and he, unfortunately, died of trench fever in 1922 on Christmas Day. His fight record was 52 professional fights with 46 wins, 3 losses and 3 draws.
Freddie Welsh – World Lightweight Champion 1914 to 1917
Freddie Welsh was born in Pontypridd and was nicknamed in his boxing career as the “Welsh Wizard”. He turned pro in 1905 in America, where the bigger fights were and more money to be made. Welsh spent many years chasing a world title and had many battles with fighters of the calibre of Jim Driscoll another great Welsh fighter, and also Packy McFarland.
Finally, Welsh got his title shot in 1914 against Willie Ritchie, another excellent fighter, Welsh would go onto win on points and become World Champion. Welsh held the title until 1917 when he lost to boxing legend, Benny Leonard.
Welsh eventually retired from boxing in 1922, sadly dying in 1927 in poverty. His professional record was a total of 166 fights, 78 wins, 5 losses, 7 draws and 81 no contests.
Jimmy Wilde – World Flyweight Champion 1916 – 1923
Jimmy Wilde was born in Treharris and his official date of when he started professionally is subject to doubt but it is believed to be around 1909. Wilde had a few nicknames, most well known the “The Mighty Atom”. He was officially crowned World Champion in 1916 after beating Young Zulu Kid. Wilde would often take on fights against people who outweighed him by more than a stone just to get fights and also famously had two fights in one night, winning both.
Wilde retired in 1920 undefeated as World Champion, however in 1923 was tempted out of retirement to defend his title against Pancho Villa in the Philippines. Villa knocked out Wilde in the seventh round, losing his title and promptly Wilde announced his retirement this time for good. Wilde died in 1967 aged 76. By many boxing historians, Wilde has been rated the greatest flyweight of all time, his professional record stands out 149 fights, 139 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw and 5 no contests, with a staggering 99 knockouts.
Howard Winstone – World Featherweight Champion 1968
Howard Winstone was born in Merthyr Tydfil. He turned pro in 1959 and went onto becoming British and European Champion. Winstone three times unsuccessfully challenged Vicente Saldivar for the World Title in 1965 and twice in 1967. In October 1967, Saldivar announced his retirement leaving the World Title vacant, Winstone fought and beat Japanese fighter, Mitsunori Seki becoming World Champion.
In July 1968, Winstone defended his World Title against Cuban, Jose Legra in Porthcawl. Winstone was stopped in the fifth round, Winstone announced his retirement at the age of 29 after the fight. He died in 2000, at the age of 61. His professional career stands at 67 professional fights, 61 wins with 6 losses.
I hope you have enjoyed this first part of the series and look forward to sharing with you part two on Welsh boxing World Champions.