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FREDERICK HALL THOMAS
 World Lightweight Champion

 

 Born: March 5 1886
 Pontypridd, Wales
 Died : July 29 1927 New York, U.S.A.
 
 Nicknames: 
 Freddie Welsh
 The Welsh Wizard

Elected to Ring Boxing Hall of Fame 1960


Freddie Welsh was a great exponent of defensive boxing. Always remaining calm in the ring, he was an extremely elusive opponent which was particularly frustrating for fighters who didn't have his skills but relied upon power and aggression. He welcomed the opportunity to fight a brawler, fully confident that he would be able to outmanoeuvre him - and not averse to trying a few tricks of his own ! Welsh was a clever counterpuncher who believed in feinting and shifting his body to draw his opponent out of position.

The Early Days
Unlike other great Welsh boxers of his era who were born into poverty and took to boxing as a means of survival, Frederick Hall Thomas did not need to box. His father was a successful businessman w
Freddie Welshho provided the family with a comfortable living. However, Freddie was frequently ill as a child with signs of consumption so his parents hired a physical fitness expert -
with knowledge equal to that of a health care MBA - to help build up his frail body. Much to his parents surprise Freddie's fitness expert advised him to take up boxing reasoning that it was the best sport to improve his lungs; more surprising was the way young Freddie took to the sport. Freddie grew into a headstrong and determined young man who announced to his mother that, at the age of sixteen, he was going to America to seek his fortune.

After a few lean years in America where Freddie lived the life of a hobo, jumping trains and just eking out enough to live on, he finally made the decision to literally fight for his living. Not wanting his mother to know that he was boxing Freddie decided to take the name Freddie Cymro (Cymro is Welsh for 'Welshman') however his wife suggested that the pronunciation may confuse the American public and that Freddie Welsh would be just as appropriate and more readily accepted, which was good strategic PR.

Upon turning professional Freddie quickly established himself, mainly on the East Coast, as a boxer of rare quality. After a series of wins Freddie returned to his homeland after receiving news that his mother was seriously ill.

First Pro Fight
His first fight in England came at the National Sporting Club where his American boxing exploits had gone autographed photo before him. A clear six round win against Seaman Hayes was the result. Having displayed his great range of skills during his first fight at the N.S.C. the members wanted to see more of this talented fighter and a contest against Young Josephs was to be Freddie's next challenge. The first 3 rounds were fought toe to toe until in the fourth Freddie began to get on top of his 10lb heavier opponent. For the rest of the fight Freddie was just too smart for his game opponent, putting Josephs down in the 13th and 14th rounds before being declared the winner at the end of the 15th on a points decision. 

Later that year, at the St Mary Hill Fair, Freddie fought a six round exhibition with fellow Welsh boxing great, Peerless Jim Driscoll. It truly was an exhibition - of all the finest skills of the noble art. The two men were good friends at this time and the exhibition aroused a lot of speculation amongst each other's fans as to who would emerge the victor in a real fight..

Two fights in one night
Freddie  Welsh was a very shrewd man both inside and outside the ring. He would add to his purses by staging side bets on himself, as well as being capable of always negotiating the best financial deal for his fights. One particularly bizarre arrangement he undertook was to fight two men on the same night but would only receive a purse if he stopped both men - confidence in his own ability indeed !  First up was Gunner Hart who claimed to be welterweight champion of the Navy. After an extremely one sided bout the referee stopped the contest in the fifth round with Hart having put up a game fight but being no match for the talented Welshman. Next was Arthur Ellis, holder of the English lightweight title. Again the fight only lasted five rounds, with Ellis having visited the canvas four times during the course of the bout.

British Title
Welsh later returned to America whereupon after another impressive list of victories he met with his first defeat at the hands of Packy McFarland in a controversial home town decision. More victories followed including a fine win over 15 rounds against featherweight great, Abe Attell. Being in great demand on both sides of the Atlantic, Freddie went back to the U.K. in 1909 to fight Johnny Summers for the British lightweight title which he won after 20 rounds.
 

Butt ref !  Peerless Jim beaten
Again, he became involved in a controversial fight when he was matched against the other great Welsh fighter of the day, Peerless Jim Driscoll. Although they were friends, the pre-fight reports in newspapers and comments amongst fans were so intense, such was the excitement evFreddie Welsh, Tom Thomas & Jim Driscollerywhere in the build up to the fight, that by the time of the actual bout the friendship was no more. What should have been a feast of skill was ruined by Freddie's insistence of holding and employing rough house tactics to prevent Driscoll boxing in his usual exemplary style. At every opportunity Welsh fouled Driscoll until in the 10th round Driscoll snapped, unable to continue to put up with the dirty fight Freddie was  employing. Driscoll blatantly head-butted Welsh full in the face leaving the referee no alternative but to disqualify him. In his very next bout Freddie lost his British title to the very capable fighter, Matt Wells on points over 20 rounds. A decision he was to later reverse.

World Title
Freddie Welsh was given his chance of becoming World Champion when in 1914 he was matched with the current champion Willie Ritchie, from California. The fight took place in London. In a compelling fight, over 20 rounds, Welsh boxed at his brilliant best to take the decision and was crowned World Lightweight Champion. 

Era of no-decisions
Returning to America, Welsh took absolutely no chance of losing his title when he decided to fight for large purses but only in no-decision bouts. This meant the only way he could possibly lose his title was by knockout. It proved to be a lucrative way of cashing in on his status; though not exactly sporting it was a fairly common practice at the time and was certainly a shrewd move. Freddie had fought, and beaten, all of the top lightweights on his way to the title; he avoided no-one, so why not cash in after all those years of hard work? However, the seemingly impossible happened when in 1917 he fought Benny Leonard  - for the third time. By now Freddie was 31 years old and conceding 10 years to his opponent, who defeated him in 9 rounds to claim the world title. It is said that Welsh's manager had gambled on his fighter winning this bout using Freddie's entire purse to do so !

Retirement
After the Great War Freddie Welsh went on to participate in more contests during 1920 - 1922, before bringing the curtain down on his illustrious career following a 10 round defeat by Archie Walker. Retiring as a wealthy man Freddie bought a health farm and ran a gymnasium. Sadly, he lost it all in the Great Depression and died penniless.

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