RARE Johnny Owen defeated Ove Hallman representing Wales vs Sweden original amateur Swedish boxing poster, 24 October 1975, Eriksdalshallen, Stockholm, Sweden.
South Wales Echo 1975
The Welsh amateur boxing squad went down to a 7-3 defeat to Sweden, in Stockholm, last night after winning the first three bouts. Bantamweight John Owens stopped his opponent, Ove Hallman, in the second round. A fine display of boxing and non-stop aggression proved too much for the Swede prompting the referee to intervene to stop the fight.
Fights 124 Won 106 Lost 18
Internationals: Fights 17 Won 15 Lost 2
*Merthyr's Court House Amateur Boxing Club came up trumps with three champions at the Welsh Schoolboy Championships held in Penarth and Swansea recently. John Owens, won on points and both Stephen Thomas and Martin Galleozzie won in the first round when the referee stopped the fights.
*John Owens, of the Hoover Boxing Club, won the Flyweight Championship of Wales at the Rhondda last Wednesday when he stopped Brian Jones, of Dyffryn A.B.C. in the second round. It was a devastating display of controlled power punching by the local lad, fresh from a string of victories in Wales, Coventry and Blackpool. This must make John a certainty to be picked for international honours next season.
(Extract from 'Merthyr Express' newspaper) 1973
*John Owens, of Merthyr, boxed and beat Denmark's Arne Geisler in last night's amateur international boxing match at Llwynypia. Owens gave Wales a good start with a points win in his bantamweight contest but the Danes recovered to win the match by six bouts to four.
(Extract from 'South Wales Echo' newspaper) 1974
*Wales completed a 7-4 victory over Scotland in last nights international, at Pontypool, with the most impressive performance of the night coming from international debutant John Owens, of Merthyr. The 18-year-old flyweight reduced John Raeside to helplessness with a non-stop two-fisted assault that brought an abrupt halt after 30 seconds of the second round.
(Extract from 'Western Mail' newspaper) 1974
*Wales won seven of the first eight decisions against Scotland before being pegged back to take a 7-4 victory. The succession of Welsh triumphs began with bantamweight John Owens (Merthyr) outpointing John Bambrick (Edinburgh City Transport). Bambrick, a bronze medallist in the European Championships in Belgrade, was no match for the spindly Owens who used his reach advantage to great effect throughout. Scoring repeatedly with accurate left jabs and varying his work when needed Owen took the decision on all three judges scorecards.
(Extract from 'Western Mail' newspaper) 1975
*Court House bantamweight John Owens beat John Bambrick, of Edinburgh, to help Wales beat Scotland 7-4 at Cardiff's Showboat Club on Friday night, and the Welsh selectors have shown their confidence in him by including him in the Welsh side to box against Ireland - in the National Stadium in Dublin - on February 20. This will be the fourteenth time that John will be wearing the red vest and he will be battling in his usual workmanlike way to preserve his unbeaten record. I spoke to John before the fight with Bambrick and he was not in the least perturbed that it would be his thirteenth appearance for Wales. The 'unlucky thirteen' tag had not deterred him from his usual placid outlook of "taking it as it comes"
The Scot is an experienced fighter but was no match for the quiet 20-year-old Merthyr boxer. After an even first round, John outscored his southpaw opponent and caught him repeatedly with solid rights. He lacked the big punch, though, to finish off his man. John has been boxing at the Court House Amateur Boxing Club for 10 years and boxed for a year in the Hoover Boxing Club. He was a Welsh schoolboy and a Welsh junior champion and has been a Welsh A.B.A. finalist seven times.
John is probably the most dedicated amateur boxer in these parts today. He eats, sleeps and drinks boxing, with the emphasis mainly on training. John has had 120 contests and has lost only 17, he has lost only one senior bout in the last 16. John's only real interest is boxing. He trains in the gym six nights a week and does roadwork every Sunday. He attributes his success to his rigid training schedules and pays special tribute to Danny Galleozzie, Billy Davies and his father, who supervise his training. Perhaps his Irish opponent better have a couple of kisses of the Blarney stone before he keeps his date with John on the twelfth.
(Extract from 'Merthyr Express' newspaper) 1976
*Although hooking solidly with both hands to the body in all three rounds, McAllister, making his international debut was too open. The taller Owen scoring with fast, accurate punches outfoxed and finally out-gunned McAllister to take the majority decision.
(Extract from Irish Evening Herald) 1976
*The Welsh amateur boxing squad went down to a 7-3 defeat to Sweden, in Stockholm, last night after winning the first three bouts. Bantamweight John Owens stopped his opponent, Ove Hallman, in the second round. A fine display of boxing and non-stop aggression proved too much for the Swede prompting the referee to intervene to stop the fight.
(Extract from 'South Wales Echo' newspaper) 1975
*The 10-man Welsh A.B.A. team facing a Midlands Select team at Solihull last night was reduced to a squad of five through a series of accidents, injuries and unforeseen circumstances.
But Wales quickly marked up a winning start thanks to John Owens of Court House, Merthyr. Owens was given a majority decision over Paul Chance - and the judges marks revealed that none of them had put Owens on the losing side in any round. One round was drawn, according to one judge, hence the majority verdict.
Owen, taller and with a marked reach advantage, steadily built up the points with his leads and some crisp right crosses and nullified most of Chance's efforts to counterpunch, though the Midlander did fight back spiritedly in the final round.
(Extract from South Wales Argus newspaper) 1975
Very rare hard to find poster possibly the only existing survivor of a bygone era featuring the amateur career of Johnny Owen. The poster is beautifully double mounted with colour coordinated light brown/red mounts and plaque.
Poster condition: Good (edge wear & tear, some bottom edge paper loss, horizontal & vertical creases & paper browning)
Professionally displayed in a period design dark brown frame to the highest standard preserving the longevity of an historic rarity and one of a kind collectable from the steeped riches of British boxing history to be viewed and admired for many more years to come. Measuring 34" x 23 1/2"
Johnny Owen (Wales) vs Gerry McAllister (Ireland)
Johnny Owen (January 7, 1956 – November 4, 1980) from Wales. His fragile appearance and astonishing abilities earned him many epithets, including ‘the Bionic Bantam’ and ‘the Merthyr Matchstick’. During his brief career, he held the Bantamweight Championships of Great Britain and Europe and became the first ever Welsh holder of the Bantamweight Championship of the Commonwealth.
He challenged champion Lupe Pintor for his version of the World Bantamweight title in September 1980, losing a torturously difficult contest by way of twelfth round knockout. Owen never regained consciousness, fell into a coma and died seven weeks later. A statue commemorating his life and career was unveiled in Merthyr Tydfil in 2002.
Early Life & Career
Johnny Owen was born John Richard Owens, the fourth of a family of eight children to working class parents Dick and Edith Owens in Merthyr Tydfil on January 7, 1956. He began to box at the age of eight and enjoyed a lengthy amateur boxing career taking in some one hundred and twenty six fights. Highlights of his amateur exploits were the winning of several Welsh titles and an impressive international record representing his beloved Wales.
A quiet, reserved, friendly character outside the ring, his appearance and character were in total contrast to what he would become once he had stepped inside the ropes of a boxing ring. For once inside the ring, he was a formidable opponent with determination and strength that seemingly were impossible to summon from such a frail looking body.
Johnny Owen's style was one of perpetual motion coupled with skill and knowledge of the noble art. The sheer ferocity displayed when he stepped between the ropes, often thought surprising in one so slight and incredible stamina built by long hours running amidst the steep hills of the South Wales Valleys, brought him greater success in the pro ranks.
He finally turned professional in 1976, opening his account with a points victory over fellow Welshman George Sutton, in Pontypool, on September 30; at the time, Sutton was ranked number three contender for the British title, a fine win for Owen in his very first professional contest.
Owen enjoyed an auspicious start to his professional career, lifting the Bantamweight Championship of Wales after just six contests and knocking out Paddy Maguire to claim the British title after only ten. Guided by manager and trainer Dai Gardiner, Owen steadily grew to dominate the domestic bantamweight scene and by the end of 1978 felt ready to take on his first, big, international test.
His encounter with Paul Ferreri to contest the vacant Bantamweight Championship of the Commonwealth, delivered one of the finest performances of Owen’s entire career. Ferrari, Italian born and resident in Australia, had held the title before, not to mention a clutch of other belts and was widely expected to be a difficult, if not insurmountable obstacle to the comparatively inexperienced Welshman’s ambitions. Yet, and almost improbably, an enthralling encounter ensued. Ferreri’s shots were clean and hard and both men brought enormous skill to bear on a fight that went the full distance of fifteen hotly disputed rounds. Towards the end, the Australian began to wilt, his punches seeming to have little effect on an opponent relentlessly piling on the pressure.
The judges saw the contest Owen’s way and he was proclaimed the first Bantamweight Champion of the Commonwealth that Wales ever had.
Owen’s victory paved the way for a shot at the division’s European title, held by Juan Francisco Rodriguez of Spain. It was the Welshman’s eighteenth contest and his first overseas and continues to be regarded, by everyone who was there, as a travesty. The fight took place in the champion’s backyard in Almeria amid a series of spectacular allegations of foul play by the challenger’s camp. Rodriguez was said to have exceeded the weight limit and his camp to have engaged in gamesmanship designed, amongst other things, to disrupt Owen's sleep. It didn’t stop there. During the contest itself, the champion was stated to have elbowed and butted his way through the rounds, whilst his seconds were believed to have smeared his gloves with an agent for the purpose of obscuring his opponent's vision.
As if that wasn’t enough, the challenger who had appeared to dominate the contest, was to be the victim of a hometown decision and, adding insult to injury, the Spanish boxing authorities withheld his purse, apparently an act of spite inspired by an incident that took place in England, some months before.
Until the meeting with Lupe Pintor, this was Owen’s sole professional defeat and was avenged a little less than twelve months later. With the European Championship once more at stake, Rodriguez journeyed to Ebbw Vale and acquitted himself bravely on the way to being relieved of his crown. Four months later and Owen successfully defended his British Championship for the third and final time, winning a Lonsdale Belt outright in the process. An impressive record behind him, his next outing would be to Los Angeles and an encounter with the reigning World Champion.
One Too Many
A Mexican slugger, Lupe Pintor had edged a controversial split decision over stable mate and long-time champion Carlos Zarate to lay claim to his WBC World Bantamweight title. Zarate may have retired in disgust, but Pintor proved to be a worthy successor and few rated Owen’s chances when they came together at the Grand Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles on September 19, 1980.
Ringside, there were some who expressed concern when they cast their eyes over Owen’s skeletal frame and astonishment when he seemed to be holding his own against the assertive champion. When the bell rang to signal the end of the eighth round, most observers had the Welshman ahead, but he was tiring fast and, in the ninth, suffered the first knockdown of his professional career. The momentum of the whole fight suddenly lurched in the champion’s direction and from the tenth Pintor was in the ascendency. Catastrophe came with twenty five seconds of the twelfth round still to go. A final, thundering right sent the challenger thudding to the canvas and Pintor had retained his title. Following the knockout, Owen lay flat on his back for five minutes and he was then taken out. The promoters’ insurance paid about $94,000 in medical costs, but did not pay any death benefits to survivors.
Owen, whom it transpired had an unusually delicate skull, never regained consciousness and, despite extensive surgery, slipped into a coma. He was pronounced dead on November 4, 1980, aged twenty-four.
Owen’s family, far from blaming the World Champion, telegraphed him shortly after their loss and encouraged him to go on fighting. Twenty years later, a memorial to Johnny Owen was unveiled in Merthyr Tydfil. At the request of the late fighter's father, the unveiling was performed by Lupe Pintor, the statue was sculpted by James Done.