Jimmy Wilde was born 15th May, 1892 in Quakers Yard,
Merthyr Tydfil. At the
age of twelve his family moved
to Tylorstown, Rhondda where Jimmy began his working life in the coal
mines there. Working in the coal mines built up Wilde's amazing strength for he never
weighed more than 108 pounds for any of his fights (his usual weight being
around 100 pounds - he never made 8 stone in his boxing career). His physical appearance was extremely deceptive,
although so small, pale and frail looking Jimmy Wilde possessed immense courage,
blindingly fast hands, knowledge of his chosen art, a punch that many
feather/lightweights would envy and perfect timing -using his opponents
momentum against them. Pound for pound he is undisputedly one of the most
devastating punchers ever to grace a boxing ring, the greatest flyweight
of all time and quite possibly the greatest fighter of all
At the age of 16 Jimmy began fighting in boxing booths. It is
estimated that he fought anywhere in the region of between 500 - 1000
fights when including the bouts he engaged in during these boxing booth
days. The booth fights would hone Jimmy's skills and begin his legendary
status. For he fought hundreds of opponents, mostly all of which were
several stones (1 stone = 14lbs) heavier than himself, and indeed fought
as many as 25 opponents in one day!!
For a day in the boxing
booths Jimmy could earn the equivalent to a weeks wages in the coal
in 101 contests
After building a fantastic reputation for himself in
the boxing booths of Wales, Jimmy had his first professional contest
against Les Williams in a three round no decision.
He then embarked on a series of wins that would
later establish him as a legend of the fight game. Notable
victories - and there were many - included an eighteenth round
knockout of Billy Padden to take the British 98lb championship, a 6 round K.O. of Frenchman
Eugene Husson and wins over world title claimants Sid Smith and Joe
Symonds (Symonds had previously beaten Percy Jones - the first
Welshman to claim a world title). Wilde remained unbeaten for four years and a total of
101 fights ! (including no decisions). They came, they saw and in the
vast majority of cases they were knocked out !
Challenging for the British & European flyweight titles, in his
102nd contest, Jimmy Wilde tasted defeat for the first time after his
corner threw in the
towel in the 17th round against
Scotland's Tancy Lee. Wilde had been ill just prior to the fight and was
exhausted when his corner threw the towel in
to signal the end of the contest.
Afterward Jimmy instructed his corner to NEVER throw the towel in
again - no matter what. Tancy Lee had stayed away from Wilde's
power punches while landing his own and establishing his dominance. Jimmy
did not fight for four months after this defeat, by his own standards this
was an extraordinary length of time.
Once back in the ring he returned to
his winning ways. 19 contests brought 19 wins before Wilde finally got Tancy Lee to face him again. There was to be no repeat win for the
Scotsman as the Welsh 'Mighty Atom' scored repeatedly with devastating
body punches to end the fight in eleven rounds, thereby avenging his
earlier defeat and taking the British & European
the run of 19 wins Jimmy had met and beaten Joe Symonds,
for the second time, by way of a
12th round K.O. At the time, 1916, Symonds was regarded in
Britain as the World Flyweight Champion. Another claimant to the
World flyweight title was Johnny Rosner, but he too succumbed to the
power of the 'Mighty Atom' as he was defeated in eleven rounds. However, Jimmy was
universally recognised as World Champion until later that same year.
Jimmy Wilde's destiny was fulfilled when on 18th
December 1916 he became the first
recognised World Flyweight Champion by
defeating Young Zulu Kid, of America. Zulu Kid was 3 inches shorter
than Wilde and could not match his speed and power, resulting in a
battering for the 11 rounds the contest lasted.
During the First World War, Jimmy Wilde served as a
Sergeant Instructor fighting professionally only twice in 1917 and three
times in 1918. One of these fights was against Joe Conn, who was the
leading contender for the British featherweight title. Putting on a tremendous
performance Jimmy ko'd his featherweight opponent in twelve rounds. His
first contest after the Great War was against Joe Lynch who took a
hammering for 15 rounds before Jimmy was declared the points winner. Joe
Lynch later went on to beat Pete Herman to become World Bantamweight
begins to wane
Wilde went to
America in 1919, he toured the
States beating an assortment of mainly much heavier opponents. The Americans grew to love
Wilde and to this day he is revered by
fight fans Stateside. Gene Tunney
said of Jimmy Wilde, "He is the greatest fighter I ever saw". In
1959 Jimmy Wilde was inducted into the American Boxing Hall of Fame.
By 1921, Jimmy Wilde was 28 years old, had fought in hundreds of
contests (possibly up to a thousand including booth
fights) against bigger men and had held his world title for four years.
Now he was to suffer only his third defeat (in 128
fights) when matched in a non-title fight against Pete Herman, who weighed
in at 121 pounds to Jimmy's 108 pounds.
Herman, had lost his World
Bantamweight title in his last contest. A rumour
circulating was that Herman did not want to risk his title against the
incomparable Welshman; but was confident of winning it back upon returning
to America. Pete Herman was an accomplished, clever boxer who also
packed quite a punch. The weight difference for once was a telling factor
against Wilde. Although he had built up a substantial points lead by
taking the fight to Herman it was obvious that Wilde was no longer the
force of old, quite simply the bigger man was proving too much for Wilde
in the latter rounds. Round seventeen saw Jimmy visit the canvas twice
prompting the referee to step in to halt the fight.
did indeed go on to regain the World Bantamweight title.
Young Jennings was beaten by
Wilde for the third time the following month but now the accumulation of
so many fights were taking their toll on the brilliant Welsh boxer
resulting in his retirement for over 2 years.
to the ring- who boxed
under the name of
The fight took place at the Polo Grounds, New York. Jimmy Wilde was a 31 year old champion
of over six years standing but was now in serious decline, about to face a 22
year old, hard punching, all action type of fighter in Villa.
With the prospect of a big pay day (£13,000) Wilde returned to
the ring in 1923 to defend his world title against
Francisco Guilledo, of the Philippines
The fight was over in 7
rounds with Wilde taking a fierce hammering from the youthful challenger.
At the bell to end the second round Wilde dropped his arms and turned to go to his corner
when Villa landed with a heavy blow to the champion's jaw.
Though badly concussed Wilde came out for the third round - clearly in no
fit state to continue. The Mighty Atom fought bravely on; but now the odds
were insurmountable for the incomparable little Welshman. Round
after round Villa punished Wilde; but Jimmy
would not give up. Displaying immense courage Jimmy Wilde battled on until
finally, unable to see out of either eye and with his face a bloody mess he was counted out in the seventh.
Wilde had fought one of the
greatest battles ever witnessed in a championship fight. Not surprisingly
he announced his retirement from the ring
after the Villa loss, only his
fourth defeat in
Greatest Fighter of All Time
Jimmy Wilde is a legend. 'The Ghost With A Hammer In
His Hand' was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1959; he was
also inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. In a 13 year
career he lost only 4 of 149 fights. He is, without doubt, the greatest
flyweight of all time. Answers to the question, 'Who is the greatest
fighter of all time?' will provide many differing opinions but there is no
doubt that Jimmy Wilde is certainly one of the greatest, quite possibly THE