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9. Jack Petersen

By Sean Davies

Petersen was an accomplished heavyweight, but the question will always remain as to whether he could have been world-class at light-heavy, his natural weight.

Jack Petersen
Jack Petersen was renowned for his all-action wars in the ring

Petersen was born in Cardiff in 1911 and his father John Thomas - the son of a Norwegian ship's carpenter from Haugesund who took up boxing and fitness in the Welsh capital - had wanted him to be a doctor.

Instead, the Whitchurch man learned to box in a gym above a pub in the docks, Petersen enjoying an excellent amateur career that took him to the ABA light-heavyweight title before turning professional in 1931.

He was backed by a professional medical and marketing operation, fronted by his father's Lynn Institute.

A victory over Harry Crossley at London's Holborn Stadium in May 1932 won Petersen the British light-heavyweight crown.

He decided that the big money was available in the heavyweight division, though, and relinquished his crown without defending it.

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In his next bout two months later, the Welshman scored a second-round knock-out of Reggie Meen at the Wimbledon Stadium to win the British heavyweight title.

Petersen would go on to secure the Lonsdale Belt, making eight successful defences.

Bigger fights were to come, though, and on 15 May, 1933, he met Germany's Heine Muller at Ninian Park in one of the greatest boxing nights ever staged in Wales.

The local boy, still aged just 21, was defending a 22-fight unbeaten record against a veteran of over 200 bouts who had mixed in the highest European and US class and was renowned for his toughness.

An estimated crowd of 40,000 thrilled at the occasion - but the fight was over virtually before they had taken their seats.

After two minutes of the first round Petersen caught his opponent with a left to the body followed by a perfect right to the head.

The crowd were left in awe as Muller lay draped across the ropes.

Jack Petersen reviews his career (1982 BBC Wales interview)

Another huge Ninian Park crowd saw Petersen defeat George Cook and an estimated 70,000 watched him beat Jack Doyle in White City.

That bout was controversial, though, as the wild, inexperienced Doyle staggered his opponent before being disqualified in the second for a low blow.

Many say that Petersen was never the same and in his next outing he lost for the first time, Len Harvey winning a controversial points decision to claim the British title.

Petersen recovered and the following year, 1934, was perhaps his best as he won and defended the British Empire title and moved up to sixth in the Ring's rankings as he sought a challenge for Max Baer's world title.

As the biggest box-office draw in Britain he saw little need to try to break into the US market, though, contributing to the fact that he was never given a world title shot.

Also, Petersen tended to get into wars, and he was soaking up a lot of punishment in the heavyweight division.

Germany's Walter Neusel - 'the 'Blond Tiger' - would prove to be his downfall, a fighter who was two stones heavier than the Welshman.

Petersen would engage him three times and on each thrilling occasion the Welshman's corner threw in the towel late on.

In this time Petersen also lost his Empire title following a stoppage defeat to Ben Foord.

Jack Petersen and Colin Jones in 1983

After the third Neusel defeat he was told that he risked blindness if he fought on, and he retired in 1937 at the age of 25 to open a successful sports shop in Barry.

His time as a professional boxer had lasted just six years.

In a fruitful post-ring career, Petersen was a major in the army, worked in sports administration and helped train future champions like Howard Winstone, Joe Erskine and Dai Dower.

Petersen died of lung cancer on 22 November, 1990, at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, with plentiful tributes paid to him at his death.

*For more on Jack Petersen, see "Wales and its Boxers: The Fighting Tradition", ed. Peter Stead and Gareth Williams (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2008)



see also
Wales' pugilist princes
15 May 09 |  Boxing
Jack Petersen in photos
25 Mar 10 |  Boxing
Cardiff's greatest fight nights
04 Jun 10 |  Boxing
Wales' boxing history in photos
24 May 09 |  Boxing
1930s boxing champion is honoured
02 Sep 11 |  South East Wales
Wales' boxing world champions
25 Mar 08 |  Boxing
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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