The boxers of Wales – Boxing News

Gareth Jones’ comprehensive book series offers a fitting tribute to the well-known and lesser-known Welsh boxers, Alex Daly writes

Given its size – with a population of just 3.1 million – Wales are exceptionally good at producing premium boxers. From the days of Jim Driscoll, Freddy Welch and Jimmy Wilde to the era of Joe Calzaghi, Enzo McCarnelli, Gavin Reese, Nathan Cleverly, and Lee Selby, the country has continually produced fighters who have proven themselves on a world scale. In addition, there were many British and European champions that Wales was very proud of. And there are those outstanding talents who, for various reasons, have not won a title but deserve recognition. Some were thwarted by campaigns in a very competitive era, others were victims of mismanagement or apparent misfortune.

Several years ago, veteran journalist and broadcaster Gareth Jones took on the task of chronicling the life and career of every Welsh boxer, including a group of ring men who might not be related to Wales but were actually born there. Putting so many stories together in book form was daunting, but Jones did a great job. He just published the seventh and final installment of the Boxers of Wales series. This latest volume is about fighters from North, Central and West Wales. Read as a series, the books cover fighters from every corner of Wales.

In keeping with its earlier volumes, Jones’ latest book is full of intriguing stories, spanning over a century of episode history and featuring both well-known and long-forgotten names.

Contemporary men like Dale Evans, who have gone the distance with Bradley Skeete and Sam Eggington in bidding for a British honor, are put alongside unremembered ring champions like Danny Evans, a Welsh quarterback and middleweight in his 30s.

The differences between the eras are starkly evident when one reads through the fighters’ files. Scott Gummer, a superb amateur and British heavyweight champion in 2006-2007, struggled for recognition in an era when our National Heavyweight List was no longer a household name. Jones writes: “It may have been a reflection of the boxing scene in which the nation’s top heavyweights often shun the once-coveted Lonsdale belt in pursuit of international glory, but the Pembroke Dock man deserved better. As someone once said, you can only beat what is in front of you.”

By contrast, Johnny Williams [pictured above], who won the British and Imperial heavyweight titles from Jack Gardner in 1952 and lost it to Don Cockell 14 months later, had no such struggle for recognition given the British crown at the time.

Most of the post-WWII boxers in the book were relatively well managed, but fighters in the antebellum years, when the rules and regulations of the sport were very lax, often got into fights with amazing regularity. Nipper Pat Daly (whose biography, Born to Box: The Extraordinary Story of Nipper Pat Daly) is a prime example. He turned professional at the age of 10 and was burnt and retired at 17, after over 100 fights. Although he was a Londoner, Daly is included in the book because he was born in Abercrave, South Wales, to a Welsh mother and English father.

One of Daly’s opponents, Jim Crawford of Wrexham, is another distinguished fighter whose career has been ruined by mismanagement. As Jones wrote: “Unfortunately, the people who drove James Henry Crawford were fascinated by the possibilities of regular thrust and disregarded advice—from the legendary Jimmy Wild among others—to put a foot on the brakes from time to time.”

This latest installment in the Boxers of Wales series, read alongside Jones’ other books, provides a detailed picture of the Welsh and British boxing scene on a larger scale from the early 1900s to the present day. I highly recommend the books available at www.st-davids-press.wales.

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