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Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Thursday, 11 April 2002 14:49 UK

1=. Jimmy Wilde

By Sean Davies

Standing at just over five foot and weighing in at 100 pounds, Wilde possessed a phenomenal punch that earned him the label 'The Ghost with the Hammer in his Hand.'

Jimmy Wilde

He boxed himself out of the pits, and his knock-out skills in the boxing booths have developed legendary status.

His career stretched over 15 years and is thought to have included over 500 fights.

He had claimed the unofficial world title by stopping Joe Symonds in London on 14 February, 1916, and he defended that crown against Tancy Lee in June.

But it was not until he stopped Italian-American Young Zulu Kid in the 11th round in London that he was recognised officially as the world champion.

The Brooklyn man - also known as the "Fighting Newsboy" - was three inches shorter than Wilde, and could not match the Welshman's power or speed in a one-sided contest.

Wilde, born in Quaker's Yard near Merthyr Tydfil, served as a sergeant instructor in the Great War.

His reputation was largely cemented on the world flyweight champion's triumphant six-month tour of North America in 1919-20 - although he already had well over 100 fights to his name in Britain by that point and was probably past his best.

Wilde's success proved his downfall. Having beaten everyone at his weight, he had to take fights against much heavier men.

Wilde won 10 of those 11 bouts across the Atlantic, dropping just one newspaper decision in a "no-contest" clash with Jackie Sharkey.

The "Tylorstown Terror" returned to Britain, where his practice of fighting heavier men finally caught up with him against the excellent bantamweight Peter Herman.

The American came in way over the agreed weight, but the Prince of Wales persuaded a reluctant Wilde to fight before a packed Royal Albert Hall.

The outgunned Welshman took a terrible beating that he never fully recovered from, the finale coming with a Herman punch in the 17th round that sent Wilde through the ropes and gave him severe concussion as his head cracked the ringside floor.

This sent Wilde towards retirement, but two years later a huge purse of £13,000 and the prospect of another headline show across the Atlantic tempted him back to fight Pancho Villa.

The Philippino - real name Francisco Guilledo - is considered by many as the greatest Asian fighter of all time.

From 1919 he had cut a swathe through the flyweight division, starting in Manila before heading to the US in 1922.


Wins over the likes of Johnny Buff and Abe Goldstein confirmed his fearsome reputation, but still Wilde chose to make the mistake of so many ageing champions, believing he still had the goods to handle the popular young challenger.

In front of over 20,000 fervent fans, 31-year-old Wilde opened with his usual aggressive style, but he found that Villa was taking his blows and returning them with interest.

At the end of the second, the heavy-punching 22-year-old caught Wilde after he had already heard the bell with a blow that left him concussed.

The great trainer Ray Arcel, watching from ringside after working on the undercard, had been impressed by Wilde's early form and felt that his corner men should have cried foul after Villa's blow.

Arcel believed that a disqualification may have resulted, and at least Wilde would have been given more time to recover.

Pancho Villa
Wilde made a misguided comeback against the great Pancho Villa

The Welshman somehow came out for the third, taking a fearful beating before being stopped in the seventh with a brutal knock-out combination.

He lost his memory afterwards, and did not recognise his wife for three weeks.

The bout was officially Wilde's fourth loss from 149 encounters, but it is thought that if his booth encounters are included he may have fought more than 1,000 times.

He went into business with a cinema chain, made regular television appearances, and wrote a column for the News of the World.

Wilde was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1959 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, and Villa would later join him in both institutions.

But the story of one of Wales' true sporting greats has a tragic end.

He was mugged on a Cardiff railway platform in 1965 and spent his last four years in Whitchurch Hospital, dying at the age of 76.

see also
Wales' pugilist princes
15 May 09 |  Boxing
Jimmy Wilde in photos
24 Mar 10 |  Boxing
Wales' greatest US fight nights
25 Mar 08 |  Boxing
Wales' boxing world champions
25 Mar 08 |  Boxing
Wales' boxing history in photos
24 May 09 |  Boxing
Boxing & Madison Square Garden
04 Nov 08 |  Boxing
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
90 years on...
17 Dec 06 |  Boxing
No bids for 'Mighty Atom' picture
23 Mar 04 |  South east

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