The Welsh Amateur Boxing Association
The Welsh Amateur Boxing Association Origins
The Welsh Amateur Boxing Association (the WABA) was established in 1910 with the specific intent of promoting and developing amateur boxing in Wales. Most organisations such as this regulate the boxing clubs where boys and now recently girls first learn the basics of the sport and where they are free to enter age and weight group competitions. Triumph in these competitions can then lead onto competitions/finals at regional, national and international levels.
Nearly all professional boxers started at an amateur level, which is very different from the professional bouts. In the amateur three round bouts, speedy and skilful, high-scoring punches are the aim, as opposed to one almighty blow to end the contest.
Currently, there are 113 affiliated clubs throughout Wales, divided into Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western divisions. Within these clubs there are circa 4,600 members, including boys and girls, ranging from 10 to 34 years old.
Over the years, Wales has produced many World class boxers and champions at both amateur and professional levels.
One of the most remarkable Welsh boxers of our times has to be Jim ‘Peerless’ Driscoll, born in Cardiff in December 1881, and died in Cardiff January 1925. Driscoll became the British Featherweight Champion in 1907 after knocking out Joe Bowker in the seventeenth round at London’s National Sporting Club. Driscoll holds the status of being one of the greatest and most clever boxers that was never actually recognised as a world champion. Driscoll was denied the world champion title on account of the New York State Frawley Law, but had won every other notable title available to him.
Another was Tommy Farr, the ‘Tonypandy Terror’, born in the Rhondda in March 1914, and died in March 1986. Farr didn’t have the best early career in Wales so tried it in London instead. After only having one fight in London, which he lost, Farr returned to Wales, where his luck was to change. After seven straight wins, he took the Welsh Light-heavyweight title with a points win against Randy Jones. After a fairly varied start to his career, Farr was to take both the British and Empire Heavyweight Champion titles in March 1937. In August 1937, Farr was to take on the ‘Brown Bomber’ (Joe Louis) in the World Heavyweight Boxing Title Fight. Although outside of Wales, Farr was thought to have a very slim chance of winning this fight, before a crowd of 32,000 Farr gave Louis the fight of his life. Ben Bennison, the boxing correspondent for the ‘Evening Standard’ at the time of this fight, said that “I do not dispute the correctness of the decision... There was only a fractional difference in favour of Louis. For twelve of the fifteen rounds Farr fought with two cut and bleeding eyes. But for this, Farr might have won, if only because of his undying courage. I say without hesitation that Farr proved himself a better, cleverer and more resourceful boxer,"
Farr had lost this fight but at the same time earned the respect that he deserved.
An additional Welsh boxer, whose name is rarely mentioned among the greats, is Percy Jones. Jones was born in the Rhondda on 26th December 1892 and died, the day before his thirtieth birthday, on 25th December 1922. Jones was the first Welshman to hold any sort of World Champion title, taking the World Flyweight title from Bill Ladbury in 1915. Jones fought and won many bouts during his short life, and maybe it is due to his young death, or his short-lived title as World Champion that he is sometimes forgotten amongst the greats of our time, after winning bouts over the likes of Joe Symonds and the Frenchman, Eugene Criqui.
A boxer with a similar fight record as Percy Jones was Jimmy Wilde. Wilde, born in May 1982 and died in March 1969, was/is considered to be possibly the greatest fighter of all time. His only defeat in 65 bouts, in just four years was to Tancy Lee (who also defeated Percy Jones), on Wilde’s first challenge for the Flyweight title.
However, to name all the great boxers that Wales has successfully produced since the world of amateur boxing began, would take up a very large amount of paper! So for now we will leave you with just a taste of what Wales has offered up over the years, and let you think about what the future of Welsh boxing has to live up to.
In current days Welsh amateur boxing is growing from year to year, with more clubs and boxers joining the WABA from all over Wales. So if there are any up and coming male or female Tommy Farr’s or Jimmy Driscoll’s, looking for a place to begin, please do not hesitate to contact the WABA.
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