Page last updated at 14:55 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Blue plaque for 'Welsh Wizard'

Freddie Welsh
Freddie Welsh was sent to California as a child due to ill health

The achievements of a boxing champion known as the Welsh Wizard have been commemorated in his home town.

A blue plaque has been unveiled in Pontypridd, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, to the late Freddie Welsh, a former world lightweight champion.

Mr Welsh suffered ill health as a child and was sent to California where he took up boxing following a suggestion from his physical fitness instructor.

The plaque was unveiled by Welsh former boxer Dai Dower, 75.

Rhondda Cynon Taf council is placing blue plaques around the county borough to mark famous people, events and places.

Thirty historical sites have been chosen for the heritage trail, which received 49,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Born Frederick Thomas, Mr Welsh - the son of a successful businessman - changed his name to prevent his mother from learning about his new boxing career in the United States.

He was awarded the first Lonsdale Belt in 1909 in recognition of winning the European lightweight boxing title.

In 1914, he won the world lightweight title in London on a points decision. He retained the title until May 1917 when he was knocked out by Benny Leonard at Manhattan Athletic Club.

Mr Welsh served in World War I but returned to boxing before retiring in 1922.

He bought a health farm and gymnasium but died penniless in New York in 1927.

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