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Saturday, 2 November, 2002, 10:21 GMT
Boxer's memory preserved in bronze
Johnny Owen's statue
The bronze statue will stand in Merthyr's town centre
The champion boxer who dealt the final blow to south Wales bantam weight Johnny Owen has flown thousands of miles to unveil a statue of the late fighter.

Mexican Lupe Pintor - who knocked out 24-year-old Owen in a title fight more than two decades ago - helped reveal a bronze memorial to the Merthyr Tydfil-born sporting legend on Saturday.

Johnny Owen after knockout
Those around the ring rushed to his aid

A life-size statue of the wafer-thin fighter - known affectionately as "The Matchstick Man" and "The Bionic Bantam" - has been erected in his home town, 22-years after the fight which ended his career.

Owen - who had been tipped to be one of the greatest fighters of his generation - died after being hit during the fight in Los Angeles in 1980.

Pintor's knockout blow came in the 12th round of the title bout, but was never pinpointed as the cause of his death.

He was taken from the ring to a nearby hospital, and remained in a coma until he died just over two weeks later.

Responsibility

Despite the circumstances leading up to his death, Owen's family have always refused to level any blame at the man who delivered the fatal punch.

While they have grieved, the Mexican fighter has carried the responsibility of his death on his shoulders.

But this weekend, Pintor joined Owen's parents Dick and Edith to remember him together.

Dick Owens - their son dropped the 's' from the family name - had previously met Pintor, and said he bore no grudges.

Johnny Owen's grave
Fans of the boxer still visit his grave

"It was nothing to do with Pintor," said father of eight Mr Owens, now 76.

"We didn't know that John had a chink in his armour."

Now Pintor is to meet Owen's family.

Boxers from across the world took part in a special service at St Tydfil's Church before Owen's statue was unveiled in the town centre.

The statue cost 40,000 to commission, and fundraising activities have been held in the Merthyr borough to help pay for it.

Owen - who began boxing at the age of eight - is the third Welsh boxer to gain a memorial in the town.

Already in place are figures honouring Howard Winstone, the former world featherweight champion who died two years ago, and Eddie Thomas, the renowned trainer and boxer.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Melanie Doel
"Johnny Owen's death sent shockwaves around the world!

More from south east Wales
See also:

07 Oct 01 | Wales
05 May 98 | UK
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