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4. Jim Driscoll

By Sean Davies

"Peerless Jim" fought himself out of a life of poverty in Cardiff Bay with an upright, classical style that took him to the British title.

Jim Driscoll

He embarked on a mission to prove his skills across the Atlantic in November 1908, where he was greeted by a boxing press and public who were sceptical of both his frail appearance and his British style, the locals favouring the all-action US fighters.

But Driscoll's vast experience learnt in the boxing booths had endowed him with formidable skills, and the Welshman had no doubts that he would prevail.

Driscoll fought nine times in the north-eastern US, winning seven with two no contests.

His ability so dazzled the American fight scene that world featherweight champion Abe Attell was then rail-roaded into a showdown with the 28-year-old foreigner at the National Athletic Club, New York.

I never break a promise

Jim Driscoll

Attell, 24, was from San Francisco, but had built a formidable reputation in America's boxing heartland of New York.

The "Little Hebrew" - like Driscoll a future Hall of Famer - had first become champion in 1903, had reclaimed the belt in 1904, and would reign as champion from 1906-12.

But Driscoll had so amazed the boxing public that he started as favourite in a showdown that the champion insisted was contested under the 10-round no decision rule, meaning that Attell could only lose the belt if he was knocked out.

Driscoll's classical straight left dominated from the outset, with Attell unable to get close to the Welshman.

The champion was in serious trouble in the fourth, and the general consensus at the end was that Driscoll had won seven of the 10 rounds, with two scored even.

It was enough to see Driscoll recognised as world champion in Europe, but the no decision rule meant he never officially wore the crown.

The Welshman's manager, Charlie Harvey, knew the clamour that could be built for a rematch under Championship rules.

But Driscoll boarded a ship for Britain the day after the Attell fight in order to perform his annual piece in a charity show for Nazareth House Orphanage, Cardiff.

"I never break a promise," was Driscoll's simple reply to Harvey's howls of dismay, and the fighter received a hero's welcome in Wales.

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Driscoll was at the peak of his powers in 1909, but they waned under the onslaught of his unhealthy, party-loving lifestyle.

He claimed two wins in London in 1910, but illness hampered the build-up to his US return against Pal Moore in Philadelphia and he dropped the newspaper decision.

Driscoll would never again fight in America, returning to Britain and a huge fight with Freddie Welsh in Cardiff in December 1910.

Freddie Welsh (left) v Jim Driscoll

Welsh's frustrating style drove Driscoll to distraction and he was disqualified for a head-butt in the 10th round of a disappointing match, but he would go on to become the first featherweight to win a Lonsdale Belt.

Billy Eynon's memories of Jim Driscoll v Freddie Welsh

Driscoll's career was interrupted for six years as he signed up to fight in the Great War.

He defied failing health to return for three more fights, using his skills to keep him out of trouble before ending his career with the bravest of defeats to Charles Ledoux in December 1919.

Driscoll died of pneumonia on 30 January, 1925, at the age of 44, and over 100,000 lined the streets of Cardiff for the funeral.

*For more on Driscoll see Fred Deakin's book, "Peerless Jim Driscoll: The original Welsh wizard, a biography," (Crescendo Publications, Stone, Staffs, 1987)



see also
Wales' pugilist princes
15 May 09 |  Boxing
Jim Driscoll in photos
24 Mar 10 |  Boxing
Driscoll v Welsh: 100 years on
11 Dec 10 |  Boxing
Wales' greatest US fight nights
25 Mar 08 |  Boxing
Wales' boxing history in photos
24 May 09 |  Boxing
Cardiff's greatest fight nights
04 Jun 10 |  Boxing
Wales' boxing world champions
25 Mar 08 |  Boxing
Boxing & Madison Square Garden
04 Nov 08 |  Boxing
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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