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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 December 2006, 18:53 GMT
90 years on...
By Sean Davies

In the days of easily won, alphabet titles, it's hard to comprehend the significance of Jimmy Wilde's capture of the world flyweight title on 18 December, 1916.

The "Tylorstown Terror", then aged 24, had been involved in 125 official fights - losing just one - having boxed his way out of the south Wales coal mines and honed his knock-out skills in the fairground booths.

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".

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.

Jimmy Wilde
Wilde is thought to have fought around 1,000 times

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.

In 1919 he embarked on a tour of the USA, where he won over fight fans in taking on - and beating - the best boxers of the day.

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

Wilde won many of these bouts, but in 1921, at the age of 28, he was pitted 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 large purse of 13,000 tempted him back to fight young Philippino Pancho Villa at New York's Polo Grounds (18 June, 1923).

The heavy-punching 22-year-old caught Wilde, now 31, after he had already heard the bell at the end of the second with a blow that left him concussed.

The Welshman somehow came out for the third, taking a fearful beating before being stopped in the seventh.

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

The bout, Wilde's last, was officially his 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 is always mentioned in talk of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time.

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
07 Mar 06 |  Boxing
1. Jimmy Wilde
11 Apr 02 |  Boxing
No bids for 'Mighty Atom' picture
23 Mar 04 |  South east
BBC Wales Sport coverage
31 Oct 05 |  Wales


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