Saturday, November 2nd 2002


The long awaited tribute to one of Wales greatest ever boxers, Johnny Owen was unveiled today by a friend of the Owen family.

The friend was Lupe Pintor, the man who threw the fateful punch that ultimately led to the untimely death of the young Welshman. The events of 22 years ago affected forever the lives of everyone who knew the young man from the valleys town so steeped in boxing history, Merthyr Tydfil.

Lupe had only met Johnny's father once since the terrible tragedy unfolded back in 1980; he had never met Mrs. Owen or Johnny's 4 brothers and 3 sisters. Invited by Dick Owen (Johnny's Dad) to unveil the statue, during his visit to Mexico in the summer, Lupe readily accepted the honour and visited the Owen household, Friday night (Nov. 1st), to a welcome that the anti-boxing brigade would never understand. Of course, there were tears and sadness in knowing what had brought them together. But most of all there was compassion. Johnny's family have never held Lupe responsible for what happened, quite simply it was an accident.

Lupe met each of the brothers and sisters with a handshake and hugged them as he cried. A gentle and sincere man, he explained - through an interpreter - "I am sorry for what happened, I did not wish him [Johnny] harm. It was a sporting accident, sport is beautiful. I was just doing what I knew best, as Johnny was. He was a great warrior. This is a difficult moment for all of us, difficult because it is remembering what once happened in a very different situation". His feelings were reciprocated as he was told by one of Johnny's brothers, "Please don't cry, it was an accident. You have come all this way to honour my brother and we thank you. Tomorrow we shall celebrate John's life and achievements together; John would be proud".

Firstly, (Saturday 2nd) a memorial service was held at High St. Chapel where Rev. David Protheroe said of Johnny, "He had a vision, a goal. He persevered and finally he achieved. Some may say, and I'm sure Lupe Pintor would agree, that Johnny did win a fight. He did win a world championship to the people of Merthyr. He won our hearts and there is no bigger prize than to win the hearts of your community". After the service everyone walked the short distance to the location of the statue, sharing their stories of Johnny as they went.

Reflecting Johnny's patriotism the statue of the former Welsh, British, Commonwealth & European champion stood resplendent draped in a Welsh flag. Lupe was to have unveiled the statue solely, but when the time came he beckoned Dick Owen to him and together they proudly revealed a statue that is a fitting tribute to the 'great warrior'. The figure bears a striking resemblance to its subject and is fine in every detail; down to the leek that Johnny was given by an old lady, and wore taped to his sock for every fight. Fittingly, the unveiling ceremony was concluded with a rousing rendition of the Welsh national anthem.


As Lupe and his wife, Virginia, enjoyed Sunday lunch with the Owen family, the following day, Dick said of Lupe, "He is a wonderful man. He had nothing to do with John's death. There was a chink in John's armour and that is all there is to it". The Mexican former world champ, replied, "I am so glad I came here. I feel that Johnny's spirit has always been with me. We had a great fight; it was a gentleman's fight. I don't know what the decision would have been had the fight gone to the end. But, I would have respected the decision if it had gone to Johnny because it was a gentleman's fight".

Lupe spoke of his great respect for the Owen family and cheekily added, "I wish to become an honorary Welshman, maybe I can come to Merthyr to live and then they will put up a statue of me!

A day for boxing to be proud.

(After Johnny's death it was revealed that he had an abnormally thin skull, the terrible accident which befell him could have happened at any time).

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