'The Famous Six' elite corps fighters regiment in The Great War 1914 to 1918 military service original black & white 8 1/2" x 6 1/2" vintage photo.
'The Famous Six', were an elite corps of Army Physical Training Instructors under the command of Captain Bruce Logan.
* Bombardier Billy Wells (Physical training instructor and sergeant in the Welch Regiment)
* Pat O'Keeffe (Physical training instructor and recruiting sergeant for the 1st Surrey Rifles)
* Johnny Basham (Physical training instructor and sergeant in Royal Welch Fusiliers)
* Dick Smith (British Army company sergeant major and physical training instructor)
* Jimmy Wilde (British Army instructor at Aldershot)
* Jim Driscoll (Physical training advisor)
Jim Driscoll’s Great War: Welsh boxers in World War I
by Sean Davies on June 26, 2014 in History.
As part of a series looking at the history of the most prominent Welsh boxers during World War I, we consider the experiences of Jim Driscoll.
It is arguable that the prime fighting years of the great Jim Driscoll‘s career were over by the start of World War I in 1914.
‘Peerless’ Jim was aged 33 when the conflict broke out and the pinnacle of his career, his ‘newspaper victory’ over Abe Attell in New York was over five years ago.
Since that high-water mark, the Cardiff man had fought just seven times, winning four, losing two and drawing the other. High living and an aversion to training contributed to the poor health that accompanied his downturn in form.
But the respect that Driscoll’s character had earned and the fame of his ring exploits meant he was a valuable propaganda recruit for the army.
He was drafted into an elite corps of army physical training instructors under captain Bruce Logan. The so-called ‘famous six’ fighters, Johnny Basham, Jimmy Wilde, Driscoll, Bombardier Billy Wells, Dick Smith and Pat O’Keefe toured Britain, taking on all-comers in military boxing booths.
The period was dramatised in Alexander Cordell’s 1984 novel Peerless Jim, a piece of literature that the author claimed (rather dubiously) was based on “known facts”.
In the book, Driscoll’s character says that the job was “10 times harder than any boxing booth” as the fighters were over-worked, taking on all-comers at all weights, challengers who did not pull their punches and who were desperate to knock-out a famous professional boxer.
“From heavyweight Billy Wells to flyweight Jimmy Wilde, the army wore us out,” says ‘Driscoll’ in the book.
“I served four years during the Great War; during that time I did some 12,000 three-minute rounds of boxing, taking on all comers, all weights, amateur and professional.
“We performed all over Britain, we entertained the troops in nearly every town in France, and for the smallest pay any other professional boxer has earned; less than a shilling a round! But, of course, it was for the beloved country.”
The six were eventually split up, although Basham and Driscoll stayed together when they were sent to France.
The two famous fighters avoided the front line as they were based in St Pol, the HQ of the gymnastics staff under Colonel Campbell.
“There were many other well-known boxers there,” recalled Basham. “It was our job to show the boys the right way to do the physical jerks (how they blessed us).
“Time and time again we would make long journeys in the night in order to box an exhibition for some of the boys who had been wounded and who preferred seeing Jim and I do our stuff to taking the ‘number nines’ that the medical officer used to hand out!
“At this gymnastics job I had a fair run round, Amiens, Arras, Albert, Poperinghe, etc, etc, were all visited by Jim and I.”
Driscoll and Basham, both sergeants, were regularly sent to calm upset in the ranks, the troops proving ready to listen to the boxers when MPs could only inflame the heated situation.
The popularity of the two was recalled by author and boxer Norman Clark. In his All in the Game he recalls meeting them in France where he sparred with Basham, Clark praising his opponent’s boxing skills and his jovial character.
The joy and laughter that Driscoll and Basham found amidst the horrors of war-time France seems undeniable, but the conflict also took its toll.
In the Cordell novel, ‘Driscoll’ says: “At least one of (the boxing instructors), and I won’t say who, died physically as sure as if he’d been killed with the tanks at Cambrai; most of us were sent to early graves.
“Eventually my health broke under the strain; a recurrence of my bronchial troubles and an ulcerated stomach sent me back to Britain.”
Before that happened, Driscoll was ‘slightly gassed’ in a German chlorine poison gas attack at the start of the second battle of Ypres.
This affected his bronchial chest and he was laid up in hospital in Arras for a time, suffering asthmatic attacks. The experience is believed to have had a big effect on his health in the post-war years.
After the war, Driscoll defied failing health to return for three more fights, using his skills to keep him out of trouble before ending his career with the bravest of defeats to Charles Ledoux in December 1919.
The great champion died of pneumonia on 30 January, 1925, at the age of 44, and over 100,000 lined the streets of Cardiff for the funeral.
Vintage original photo in extremely good condition with handwritten (fountain pen) listing the fighters names and Captain Bruce Logan from left to right on display card below the photograph.
Professionally framed in antique period design and double mounted/matted. Measures 15 3/4" x 14"
William Thomas Wells, better known as Bombardier Billy Wells (31 August 1889 – 12 June 1967), was an English heavyweight. Fighting under the name "Bombardier Billy Wells", he was British and British Empire Champion from 1911 until 1919, defending his title fourteen times. In 1911 he became the first Heavyweight to win the Lonsdale Belt, which had been introduced for British champions at all weights in 1909.
Wells, who was 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) and was between 182 and 192 lb (83 and 87 kg), fought with an orthodox style.
Wells was born at 250 Cable Street, Stepney, in the East End of London. He was the eldest of five brothers and was one of nine children. His parents were William Thomas Wells, a musician, and Emily Rhoda Farrier, a laundress. He attended Broad Street elementary school, Queensbury until about the age of twelve, then becoming a messenger boy. He began to box as an amateur during this period.
In 1906, Wells joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner. He was posted to Rawalpindi where he boxed in divisional and all-India championships, with great success. He was promoted to a bombardier, and began training full-time with the help of a civilian coach. It became apparent that Wells was good enough to make a living from boxing, so in 1910, he bought himself out of the army and returned to Britain. This was at a time when boxing was becoming very popular as a spectator sport, in Britain and elsewhere.
Wells had his first professional fight on 8 June 1910, against Gunner Joe Mills, winning on points over six rounds. In his first eight fights he recorded seven wins and one defeat. In his next fight he fought for the British Heavyweight Title, at the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden, London. The fight was in April 1911 against Iron (William) Hague, the holder, and Wells won by a knockout in the sixth round of twenty.
Wells was matched to fight the current World heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, in London in October 1911, but religious opponents of excessive prize money, led by Baptist minister Frederick Brotherton Meyer, and opponents of contests between the races, caused the fight to be cancelled by Winston Churchill, who was then Home Secretary. A 'colour bar' remained in British boxing until 1947.
In December 1911, Wells fought Fred Storbeck at Covent Garden for the British Empire Heavyweight Title, scoring a knockout in the eleventh round to gain his second title in one year.
In June 1913, Wells fought the extremely talented Frenchman Georges Carpentier for the European Heavyweight Title. The bout was held in Ghent, Belgium, and Wells lost by a knockout in the fourth round.
Wells defended his British heavyweight title three times in 1913, and then in December of the same year, he had a rematch with Carpentier for his European title. The bout was held at Covent garden, but again Carpentier won, this time by a knockout in the first round.
Wells continued to box and successfully defend his British heavyweight title, even after the start of World War I. In May 1915, Wells joined up for military service (in the Welsh Regiment) and was later made a sergeant. He continued to box until the end of 1916, and in 1917 was sent to France to organize physical training amongst the troops.
After the end of the war, Wells resumed his boxing career. His fourteenth defence of his British heavyweight title, and of his British Empire title was against Joe Beckett, a boxer whom he had beaten on points two months previously. The bout was held in February 1919, in Holborn, London, and Beckett won by a knockout in the fifth round to take Wells’ titles.
Wells then had five more bouts, winning them all, before having a rematch against Beckett in May 1920. The bout was held at Olympia, Kensington, but again Wells was knocked out, this time in the third round.
Wells continued to fight, having eight (?) more bouts, winning five and losing six. His last fight was in April 1925.
In 1911, he published a book, Modern Boxing: a Practical Guide to Present Day Methods.
On 7 September 1912, Wells married Ellen Kilroy, the daughter of a publican. They had five children before eventually parting.
In 1923, he published the book, Physical energy: Showing how physical and mental energy may be developed by means of the practice of boxing, Publisher: T.W. Laurie.
The Lonsdale Belt that Wells won was the original heavyweight belt and was crafted from 22 carat gold unlike later belts. The belt was kept at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, South East London, but is now at Larkhill, Salisbury following the move of the home of the Royal Artillery and is still not on display to the general public.
Wells was also famous for being the third person to fill the role of the "gongman" - the figure seen striking the gong in the introduction to J. Arthur Rank films.
He lived in Ealing, London and died there on 11 June 1967, aged 77. His ashes were laid to rest in the crypt of St. Mary's parish church in Hanwell, west London.
Pat O'Keeffe (17 March 1883 – 16 August 1960, spelled by many sources as Pat O'Keefe), is a former British champion in both the welterweight and middleweight weight classes. His professional career spanned the years between 1902 and 1918. In 1914 he made an unsuccessful bid for the European heavyweight belt, losing to Georges Carpentier. Between 1907 and 1910 he left Britain and continued his boxing career in the United States, and then Australia. On the outbreak of World War I he joined the British Army to work as a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) and Recruiting Sergeant for the 1st Surrey Rifles. He won the Lonsdale Belt outright when he defeated Bandsman Blake at the National Sporting Club (N.S.C) on 28 January 1918, becoming British Middleweight Champion.
O'Keeffe died on 16 August 1960 at the Mount Vernon Hospital in Middlesex, aged 77.
Early career: 1902-1907
One of O'Keeffe's earliest recorded fights was against Jack Palmer. O'Keeffe defeated him on two occasions over six rounds during 1902. In 1903, at the age of twenty, he beat Jack Kingsland in a match fought at the Olympia centre in London to win the title of Welterweight Champion of England.
In 1906, having fought many of the top contenders for the British Middleweight Title, O'Keeffe was elected to contest the championship. He won the title beating Mike Crawley in a fight that lasted fifteen rounds.
One month later, O'Keeffe defended the title against Charlie Allum and knocked him out in the sixth round. O'Keeffe lost the belt in his next bout to Tom Thomas at the National Sporting Club (N.S.C.) by a narrow points margin.
A year later in Paris, O'Keeffe defeated Allum again by knock out and won £200. This bout was billed the French Middleweight Championship. O'Keeffe never defended the claim.
International Career: 1907-1910
After losing the British middleweight championship title, O'Keeffe travelled the World and fought all over the United States and Australia.
In 1907, he fought World middleweight champion Billy Papke and World welterweight champion Henry Lewis with just over a month's rest between bouts. The match in Philadelphia with Papke was very hard-fought, ending in a draw. He lost his bout with Henry Lewis in Boston, Massachusetts by decision. His next fight was against Willie Lewis originally scheduled for 19 December 1907, but the police placed an injunction on the venue in New York. The fight went ahead on 23 December 1907. W.Lewis is said to have entered O'Keeffe's dressing room just before the fight, berating his apparent belly, quipping that he might kill him if he punched him there. O'Keeffe lost by knockout. Despite not winning a bout in the US, O'Keeffe was upbeat and in February 1908, he returned to England. He placed a message in the Sporting Life, declaring "he is here for business", in a wide-ranging article that revealed he contracted malaria in the US. The article claimed that anyone who wanted to challenge the statement need only send money to the Sporting Life, with correspondence addressed to O'Keeffe and it would receive his immediate attention.
Answering O'Keeffe's message in the Sporting Life, fellow Canning Town boxer Steve Smith took on O'Keeffe at the Wonderland Francais, Paris, the match ended in a draw. Less than two weeks later at the same venue, he was disqualified for a low blow in the fourth round against Jeff Thorne.
Later that year, O'Keeffe toured Australia with Tommy Burns, the World heavyweight champion. At 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) Burns is the shortest boxer ever to hold the title which he won in 1906. He also managed to successfully defend it eleven times against all claimants until he met with Jack Johnson on Boxing Day in 1908.
While in Australia, O'Keeffe and Burns trained together and used to invite the public to watch these exhibitions of their skills
O'Keeffe fought a number of contests in Australia, mostly against heavier opponents, winning two, drawing one and losing three.
Late Career: 1911–1918
He did not fight again in England until 1911, when he fought Eddie McGoorty, losing on points over fifteen rounds. McGoorty went on to become World champion in 1915. After this loss O'Keeffe won his next five fights between 1911 and 1913. His next defeat was a points decision against Private Jim Harris which he reversed over twenty rounds two months later, after defeating Frank Mantell twice in seven days.
On 4 August 1913 he challenged Bombardier Billy Wells for the British heavyweight championship. He was a tall heavyweight who was almost three stones heavier than O'Keeffe, but it took fifteen rounds before Wells succeeded in knocking him out.
O'Keeffe's next bout was against the young prodigy Georges Carpentier. The match was billed as the Heavyweight Championship of Europe although both men were under the light heavyweight limit. He was knocked out in two rounds by the man who, at the time, appeared capable of beating all of Europe’s boxers in quick succession. O'Keeffe gave a simple no-nonsense reason for his defeat to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph: "He was too big and strong for me."
His next fight was against Henry Reeve for the British middleweight championship on 2 February 1914. O'Keeffe won on points over twenty rounds. Later Reeve moved up to the light heavyweight division and won the British championship in 1916 against Dick Smith.
O'Keeffe successfully defended his middleweight title two months later against Nichol Simpson. In May of the same year he earned a second notch on his belt by defeating Jim Sullivan who had himself held the belt in 1910 when he beat an old adversary of O'Keeffe's, Tom Thomas. O'Keeffe earned £650 for winning this fight.
A year later in March 1915, he fought and knocked out the heavyweight, Joe Beckett in eight rounds. Following this O'Keeffe had a return fight with Jim Sullivan. Although it was billed as being for the British middleweight title, the fight was not endorsed by the N.S.C; therefore, the Lonsdale Belt was not at stake on this occasion. The two met again on 21 February 1916. Jimmy Wilde, the former Flyweight champion, described the fight as the most punishing he had ever seen. Both men fought as though their lives depended on it. The ring and spectators sitting nearby were splashed with blood by the end of the battle and it can be seen from photographs of the event that Sullivan's white shorts were dark with blood by the end of twenty rounds when O'Keeffe gained the decision. Two months later he fought Bandsman Blake and knocked him out in the thirteenth round. Blake had a fine record at this stage having lost to only one man to date in his five-year professional career, Bombardier Billy Wells.
Just three months later, on 22 May 1916, O'Keeffe was at the N.S.C to fight Bandsman Blake again. The £500 match went the full 20 rounds. "The contest was not a good one" according to the Sheffield Independent. In the 12th round, the referee gave both fighters a last warning that he would order them out of the ring if they did not alter their methods. The paper reported that blame for this messy fight lay squarely with Blake, citing his constant clinching and holding, which was employed to avoid the infighting quality of O'Keeffe. Blake won the fight on points, a verdict "received by a crowded house with something almost akin to amazement", the Sheffield Independent states.
Thus, O'Keeffe lost both the Championship and his Lonsdale Belt. Following this fight, both O'Keeffe and Blake were posted to France and the return fight demanded by the fans could not take place until their return.
On the 28 January 1918, O'Keeffe fought his last professional fight, defeating Blake to win the Lonsdale Belt outright along with an N.S.C Pension.
In an article two days later, the Sportsman reported on the tributes being paid to O'Keeffe at the N.S.C. "No more popular ring victor in recent years has been seen than Sergt Pat O'Keeffe", it begins. Arthur Frederick Bettinson, one of the founding members of the Club remarked on O'Keeffe's exploits, remembering his name on the belt in both 1914 and 1918 and congratulated him as a sportsman and a man. O'Keeffe replied to these tributes modestly, saying that securing the Lonsdale Belt as his own was one of his key ambitions in his career. He would now concentrate on charity and family he said. O'Keeffe retired from professional boxing having made many lifelong friends.
Military service during World War I
At the start of 1915, O'Keeffe joined the 1st Surrey Rifles. He was a Physical Training Instructor and Recruiting Sergeant.
This is an excerpt from an Article about O'Keeffe's recruiting skill:
...He was recently crossing London Bridge in company with his Sergeant-Major when from the other direction came a husky, healthy youth pushing milk cart. Said the Sergeant-Major to the Corporal There's a likely looking recruit for you, Pat; try him." O'Keeffe approached his victim, prodded him in the chest with his little stick, and said: "Say, don't you want to serve your King?" Yus," answered the youth. " How many quarts will he want? ** The Bulletin does not complete the story, but prefer to believe that Pat gained another recruit that day, for the soft answer is no good against an Irishman...
He found Army life at the Regiment's home at Camberwell suited his boxing training well. With good, plain food, strict routine and drill, plenty of sparring partners, and ample space to train, he thrived in a friendly atmosphere where he was very popular with the men.
O'Keeffe and other boxer-turned-soldiers planned activities to help boost the morale of injured troops. One such time was an organised boat trip down the Thames.
O'Keeffe remained a public figure for many years. He took a seat on the inaugural British Boxing Board of Control with fellow ex-champion boxers Billy Wells and Jim Driscoll. He participated in charity events, such as boxing an Aston Villa football player, refereed amateur tournaments and took part in charity exhibition matches, most notably with his old rival Bombardier Billy Wells. These exhibitions could some times get heated, with O'Keeffe said to have once shouted "Stop it Billy! - I'm not the Kaiser!". O'Keeffe was a regular star spectator at big bouts. He also had his own boxing column in the Daily Herald for a while
O'Keeffe carried on working. He was engaged in the licensing business, was a Publican and was involved in bookmaking. The French and British armies employed him as a boxing instructor in 1925.
In March 1938, the N.S.C. moved into new premises in Piccadilly and held a banquet to honour the occasion. There were hosts of fighters presented including many of the old timers, Jimmy Wilde, Billy Wells, Teddy Baldock, Pedlar Palmer, Tancy Lee, Johnny Basham and O'Keeffe.
O’Keeffe died 16 August 1960 at the Mount Vernon Hospital in Middlesex, aged 77.
John Michael Basham (1890 – 7 June 1947) was a Welsh boxer who became British and European champion at both welter and middleweight. His professional career spanned over 20 years, from 1909 to 1929, and after being stationed in Wrexham through military service, he fought most of his bouts in nearby Liverpool.
Basham was the first welterweight to win the Lonsdale Belt outright, successfully defended his British welterweight title on two occasions and also took the Commonwealth welterweight title in 1919. His career was defined not only by his successes, but also through the death in the ring of opponent Harry Price, which saw Basham face manslaughter charges, and his failed contests with Ted "Kid" Lewis towards his career's end.
Johnny Basham was born in Newport in southern Wales in 1890. BoxRec have his first professional fight against Boxer Ryan on 18 October 1909, fought at Campbell Bannerman Hall in Newport. The six round fight only lasted until the third when Basham took the match via a knockout. He followed this win with a series of regular contests throughout 1910, mainly taking place in Newport or the surrounding areas of Wales. These were against fighters with limited experience, and his results were patchy, having won three, lost three and drawn one by June 1910, including losing to Fred Dyer, the Singing Boxer on Dyer's debut. Only one match is recorded for the second half of 1910, his first fight outside Wales, when he beat Jim Ashen in the first round at the Frank Gess' Pavilion in Gloucester. Basham began 1911 with a draw with Young Walters in Pontnewydd on 6 February. No other bouts are recorded until August, but Basham then undertook a heavy schedule of fights, taking in nine matches in the second half of the year. Basham only lost one of the fights, of which three were fought in Wrexham in north Wales, and two in Liverpool.
In 1912 Basham joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was stationed at Hightown Barracks in Wrexham. Over the years he rose through the ranks and achieved the rank of Sergeant. His move to north Wales resulted in most of Basham's fights now occurring either in Wrexham or across the border in Liverpool. Several of his fights were fought at Hightown Barracks or in the Poyser Street drill hall, Wrexham. Of the thirteen matches recorded in 1912, he lost just one, losing to Matt Wells on Boxing Day when he was knocked out in the seventh of a fifteen round contest.
Harry Price And The British Welterweight Title
During the first half of 1913 Basham experienced a dip in form, losing three and drawing one of the first seven fights. The last of these contests was the first of three consecutive fights against Frank Madole. Basham lost the first encounter with Madole via technical knockout before winning the second by the same result and then taking the third fight on points. He later drew against Tom McCormick at Liverpool Stadium before a win over Will Brooks at the American Skating Rink in Cardiff.
Basham was next scheduled to face South African fighter Harry Price in Liverpool on 21 August 1913. The fight, held at Liverpool Stadium, was scheduled for fifteen three-minute rounds, and in a hotly contested encounter both men traded heavy blows from the start. The Grey River Argus recorded the fight being even up to the ninth, but in the tenth round Basham landed with a left hook that put Price down for a count of nine. Price recovered but in the eleventh he was knocked down again, but when he landed his head made "violent contact with the boards of the ring". Price failed to rise and doctors entered the ring and had him sent to hospital in an unconscious state. Price died the following morning. After the fight Basham was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm, and Price's subsequent death led to a manslaughter charge. Basham gained public sympathy for his plight, and he was acquitted when the magistrate in charge of the investigation concluded that the fight had been conducted "fairly and sportingly".
Two months after the Price fight, Basham was back in the ring and finished 1913 with a string of four wins. He began 1914 with a strong win, beating future welterweight champion Albert Badoud by points on New Year's Day. He followed this up with wins over Young Nipper, Dick Nelson and Henri Demlen before fighting for the first time at the National Sporting Club in London, beating Sid Stagg. A win over Gus Platts back in Liverpool led to Basham's first title fight, a contest against Johnny Summers for the British welterweight belt. Summers, originally from Yorkshire, was a far more experienced boxer with over 140 fights behind him and had held the title in 1912. The bout, fought at the National Sporting Club, was scheduled for twenty rounds; but in the ninth round Summers was stopped via knockout, giving Basham his first major title.
The Lonsdale Belt And The European Title
Basham was awarded the Lonsdale Belt on 21 December 1914 at the National Sporting Club after winning it from Johnny Summers becoming the first outright winner of the welterweight version of the belt. Tony Lee in his 2009 book All in My Corner, states that "By 1914, Freddie Welsh, Jim Driscoll, Newport's Johnny Basham and Jimmy Wilde had all won the Lonsdale Belts outright;". A Wrexham County Council heritage site records Basham taking the belt both in 1914 and in 1916. The National Library of Wales records Basham winning the Lonsdale Belt in 1916, while The Toronto World newspaper of May 1916 writes that Basham was the holder of the Lonsdale Belt when he faced Badoud in their European title encounter in October 1915.
Basham's career as a professional fighter slowed during the First World War, with Boxrec only recording 13 fights for Basham during the war period. Basham was posted as sergeant physical training officer in the British Expeditionary Force in France, making competitive fighting difficult. Basham was one of a group of fighters, known as 'The Famous Six', who were an elite corps of Army Physical Training Instructors under the command of Captain Bruce Logan. The other five men were Jim Driscoll, Jimmy Wilde, Bombardier Billy Wells, Pat O'Keefe and Dick Smith. At the London Opera House in March 1915, Basham won a 15-round fight "on points" against Matt Wells. In May 1915, Basham fought against Summers in a non-title fight at Liverpool Stadium. The fight went the distance with Basham being given the decision on points. In May 1915 the National Sporting Club arranged Basham's first defence of his welterweight title, his opponent being Tom McCormick who had held the title briefly in 1914. The twenty round fight lasted until the thirteenth when Basham stopped McMormick through a technical knockout. Basham knocked out Dan Roberts during the seventh round at a 13 August fight in Liverpool. On 22 October 1915, a fight was arranged for the vacant EBU (European) welterweight title between Basham and Swiss fighter Albert Badoud. Basham has fought Badoud twice previously, both ending in wins for the Welshman, but in the title encounter Badoud stopped Basham through a ninth-round knockout.
In 1916 Basham defended his British title for the second time, again at the National Sporting Club in Covent Garden, facing Scotsman Eddie Beattie. The match went as far as the nineteenth before Beattie was stopped via a technical knockout. Basham fought sporadically throughout the rest of the war years, mainly in Liverpool. Basham won over Sid Burns in May 1917 in Holborn, London. In December 1918, Balsham beat private A. Tierney at the British Empire and American Services Boxing Tournament held at the Royal Albert Hall.
On 27 January 1919, with the war behind him, Basham was again invited to the National Sporting Club where he beat American fighter Eddie Shevlin, who was introduced as the U.S. Navy's welterweight champion, after 15 rounds. Basham won on points, and after beating Kid Doyle in February, he was called for a rematch at Covent Garden against Shevlin, where Basham again won with a points decision. He followed this with a draw against American Augie Ratner and then a win over London fighter Willie Farrell on 22 July in Liverpool, which opened up another shot at the European welterweight title.
Albert Badoud had successfully defended the European welterweight title in August 1919, against Frenchman Francis Charles, but by the following month he had vacated the title, which allowed both Charles and Basham to contest the welterweight belt. The fight was arranged for 2 September at the Olympia in London and was scheduled for 20 three-minute rounds. The bout went the full distance, with the result going to Basham on points, making him the European welterweight champion.
European Middleweight Title And Ted "Kid" Lewis
In November 1919, a contest was arranged between Basham and Matt Wells, who had knocked Basham out when they met in Swansea in 1912. At stake were Basham's British welterweight title and Wells' Commonwealth welterweight title, which he had taken from Tom McCormick in an encounter in Sydney in 1914. Basham won the fight on points, making him the British, Commonwealth and European welterweight champion. He then successfully defended his Commonwealth belt from a challenge from Australian welterweight champion Fred Kay, before facing former World welterweight champion Ted "Kid" Lewis on 9 June 1920. Lewis, who had three months prior taken the vacant British middleweight title, challenged for all three of Basham's belts, in a contest held at the Olympia in Kensington. The more experienced Lewis won the contest in the ninth through a technical knockout (from cutting Basham's lip), taking Basham's titles.
Five months later, Basham was given an opportunity to challenge Lewis for the British and European titles he had lost in their first encounter. Contested at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Basham lasted until the nineteenth round when he was knocked out by Lewis. By 1921, Lewis had moved up to middleweight, and Basham responded by doing the same. Gus Platts, a Sheffield fighter who had beaten Basham in Cardiff in 1911, was the present holder of both the British and European middleweight titles, having won them respectively from Tom Gummer and Ercole de Balzac earlier in the year. Basham was allowed the first challenge for the two titles and faced Platts on 31 May 1921 at the Royal Albert Hall. The twenty round fight went the full distance and Basham was awarded the contest on points, becoming the new British and European middleweight champion.
Basham held the Middleweight titles for less than five months, losing both to his arch-rival "Kid" Lewis when the two met in October 1921. Again Basham was unable to last the distance, being stopped by technical knockout in the twelfth. Basham never challenged for a title again and he ended his career with a series of losses, being knocked out by World champion Mike McTigue and a points loss to fellow Welshman Jerry Shea. Basham came out of retirement in 1929 to face "Kid" Lewis, but for the fourth time he was stopped within the distance.
Basham reportedly suffered from "cauliflower ear", or thickening and enlargement of his left ear, in his retirement due to trauma from boxing. Basham died on 7 June 1947, aged 56.
Dick Smith (10 February 1886 – 8 January 1950) was a British light heavyweight and heavyweight who was British light heavyweight champion between 1914 and 1916 and again in 1918.
Born in Woolwich, London, Dick Smith served in the armed forces in India where he won several services boxing championships, and he also won police boxing titles while a member of the police force. He had his first professional fight in January 1914, a challenge to Dennis Haugh for his British light heavyweight title, which he lost in a controversial points decision. He met Haugh again two months later, this time winning on points over 20 rounds to take the title. He was due to fight French champion Georges Carpentier in May 1914 but the fight was postponed after Carpentier was kicked by a horse. They were due to fight in November 1914 but the fight was cancelled.
Smith, then a sergeant in the British Army gymnastic staff, then moved up to the heavyweight division, challenging Bombardier Billy Wells for the British heavyweight title in May 1915; He lost after being knocked out in the ninth round. He met Wells for the title again in February 1916, losing by a third round knockout.
He returned to light heavyweight for a successful defence of his British title against Harry Curzon in June 1916.
He challenged Wells for the heavyweight title for a third time in August 1916 in front of 11,800 people at St James' Park, Newcastle, this time being stopped in the ninth round.
He made the second defence of his light heavyweight title against Harry Reeve in October 1916, with Reeve taking the title on a points decision after 20 rounds. Reeve relinquished the title and Smith fought Joe Beckett in February 1918 for the vacant title; Smith won a 20-round points decision to reclaim the title. By December 1918 Smith had risen to the rank of company sergeant major.
In July 1919 Smith met Carpentier in Paris with the EBU heavyweight and the IBU light heavyweight titles at stake; Carpentier won by a knockout in the 8th round.
In March 1920 he fought Beckett for the British heavyweight title, Beckett winning by a 5th-round knockout. In November 1922 he beat Australian heavyweight champion George Cook. In May 1923 he fought Beckett again for the heavyweight title but lost again after being knocked out in the 17th round while ahead on points.
Smith retired from boxing in 1924, his last fight a defeat to Jack Bloomfield attended by the Prince of Wales, after which he ran a pub in Dartford where he displayed his trophies and his Lonsdale Belt. Smith was described as "one of the most scientific boxers of the day".
He was a keen golfer and also worked as a boxing referee.
Dick Smith died on 8 January 1950 at his home in Dartford, aged 63.
William James Wilde (15 May 1892 – 10 March 1969) was a Welshman and World champion. Often regarded as the greatest British fighter of all time, he was the first official World flyweight champion and was rated by American boxing writer Nat Fleischer, as well as many other professionals and fans including former boxer, trainer, manager and promoter, Charley 'Broadway' Rose, as "the Greatest Flyweight Boxer Ever". Wilde earned various nicknames such as, "The Mighty Atom," "Ghost with the Hammer in His Hand" and "The Tylorstown Terror" due to his bludgeoning punching power. While reigning as the World's greatest flyweight, Wilde would take on bantamweights and even featherweights, and knock them out. As well as his professional career, Wilde participated in 151 bouts judged as 'newspaper decisions', of these he boxed 70 rounds, won 7 and lost 1, with 143 being declared as 'no decisions'. Wilde has the longest recorded unbeaten streak in boxing history, having gone 104-0.
Jimmy Wilde's birth certificate states that he was born in the Taff Bargoed Valley community of Pentwyn Deintyr) (now known as the Graig), Quakers Yard, Treharris, Wales, in the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil. His parents later moved to the village of Tylorstown in the Rhondda Valley when Wilde was around 6 years old. Wilde was the son of a coal miner and worked in the coal pits himself. He was small enough to crawl through gullies impassable to most of his colleagues. He started boxing at the age of sixteen in fairground boxing booths, where crowds were amazed by his toughness and ability to knock down much larger opponents, most of which were local men weighing around 200 lbs. In 1910, Wilde married his wife Elizabeth and was a father the same year. He left Tylorstown Colliery in 1913.
The record books often show that Wilde started boxing professionally in 1911, but it is widely assumed (and later confirmed by boxing analysts) that he had been fighting professionally for at least four years before that. His claim that he had at least 800 fights is probably greatly exaggerated, but it was rather more than the 152 shown in Boxrec and elsewhere. His officially listed debut was on 26 December 1910, when he fought Les Williams to a no-decision in three rounds. His first win came on 1 January 1911, when he knocked out Ted Roberts in the third round
Managed by Teddy Lewis, reserve captain of local rugby club, Pontypridd RFC, Wilde went undefeated in 103 bouts, all of which were held in Britain, a remarkable achievement. In the middle of that streak, on 31 December 1912, he won the British 7 stone championship by beating Billy Padden by an eighteenth round knockout in Glasgow. He finally lost his undefeated record when he challenged Tancy Lee for the vacant British and Europe flyweight championship on 15 January 1915 in London. Wilde was knocked out in the seventeenth round (of twenty).
In 1915, Wilde was hospitalized, requiring an operation for "an internal complaint". After a sixteen fight knockout streak, on 14 February 1916 he won the British flyweight title by beating Joe Symonds by a knockout in round twelve at the National Sporting Club in London. On 24 April 1916, Wilde beat Johnny Rosner by a knockout in the eleventh round at Liverpool Stadium to win the IBU World flyweight title. On 13 May, he had two fights on the same day at Woolwich Dockyard (against Darkey Saunders and Joe Magnus), winning both by knockout, both fights combined lasting less than five rounds. On 26 June Wilde returned to the National Sporting Club to take his revenge on Tancy Lee with an eleventh round knockout. On 18 December, Wilde became recognised as the first World flyweight champion (the IBU title was only recognised in Europe) when he defeated Young Zulu Kid of the United States, knocking him out in the eleventh round of their bout at the Holborn Stadium.
In late December 1916, after being rejected on two previous occasions due to an old leg problem from a colliery accident and for being underweight, Wilde was accepted into the British Army and while never seeing active service, became an instructor at Aldershot.
In 1917, he retained the World title by beating George Clarke by a knockout in four. With that win, he also won the European title and recovered the British title. But that would be his last title defence, as soon he decided to vacate the World title. He kept fighting and winning, and in 1919, he beat Joe Lynch, another boxer who was a World champion, by decision in 15.
Wilde travelled to the United States for a series of fights, and on 6 December 1919, lost to "Little" Jackie Sharkey in a ten round newspaper decision of the Milwaukee Journal before a crowd close to 8,000 at the Auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sharkey was considered a decisive winner, taking eight of the ten rounds according to the newspapermen at ringside. Wilde had been away from the ring for months, and was outweighed by Sharkey by seven pounds. Sharkey's blows were said to land more frequently and with greater force. Sharkey's win was at least a minor upset as Wilde led in the early betting 2 to 1. The American newspaper's decisions were questioned by many British boxing journalists.
In 1920, Wilde went undefeated in 10 fights, but then, he lost by a knockout in 17 to former World bantamweight champion Pete Herman, who outweighed him by more than a stone (14 pounds), in 1921. The bout was originally scheduled as a title defence, but Herman had lost his championship to Lynch the month before. Herman easily regained the bantamweight title from Lynch in July 1921, leading some to suspect that he had left the title behind with Lynch in America intentionally. That was the fight that marked his return to Britain after touring the United States all of 1920. After a win over Young Jennings, he announced his retirement.
Wilde returned to the ring out of a sense of obligation to defend his title against Pancho Villa on 18 June 1923 at the Polo Grounds in New York. After losing by a knockout in seven to the Philippines' first World champion, Wilde announced his retirement before returning to England, confirming his decision on 1 January 1924.
In 1927, at the age of 35, Wilde was reportedly considering making a comeback, but never returned to competitive boxing.
Having had his first book, Hitting and Stopping: How I Won 100 Fights, published in 1914, Wilde wrote two additional books, the instructional The Art of Boxing (1923). and the 1938 autobiography Fighting Was My Business.
Wilde's son David followed him into a career in professional boxing, although without great success.
In the 1930's he lived in a house in Hocroft Court, Cricklewood, from where almost all of his boxing trophies and medals were stolen in a 1936 burglary. He became a boxing referee, including in 1936 refereeing every bout of a boxing tournament at the Hastings Pier Pavilion. In December 1936 he was injured after being thrown from a car driven by a friend when it collided with a van near Hampstead.
Wilde lived the last few years of his life in the Cadoxton district of Barry, South Wales. With his final boxing winnings, Wilde entered into several business schemes, including a Welsh cinema chain and partnership in a cafe at 5 Western Shelter, Barry Island that was named 'The Mighty Atom' cafe. None were successful and he spent his final years in poverty. In 1965, Wilde suffered serious injuries during a mugging at a train station in Cardiff, from which he never recovered. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1967, and two years later Wilde died in a hospital in Whitchurch. He was buried in Barry Cemetery.
Awards And Recognition
With the longest unbeaten streak in boxing history, he went 103 fights before his first loss. Wilde had a record of 139 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw and 5 no-contests, with an impressive 99 wins by knockout. Ring Magazine, named him both the 3rd greatest puncher of all time, and the greatest flyweight of all time, and rated him as the 13th greatest fighter of the 20th century.
In 1990, he was elected to the inaugural class of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame and in 1992, the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame.
He was ranked as the top flyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization in 2006.
James "Jim" Driscoll commonly known as Peerless Jim (15 December 1880 – 30 January 1925) was a Welsh boxer who learned his trade in the boxing ring and used it to fight his way out of poverty. Driscoll was British featherweight champion and won the coveted Lonsdale belt in 1910. He is a member of the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame, the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame, and the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Driscoll was born in Cardiff in 1880 to Cornelius and Elizabeth, and was brought up on Ellen Street in the Newtown region of the town. Driscoll's parents were both Irish, and both Catholicism and the local St Paul's Church would be key in his life. Driscoll never forgot his roots; he was a faithful supporter of his church, remained close to his community, and had great affection for the Nazareth House Orphanage, for whom he once gave up the chance of becoming featherweight champion of the World.
Driscoll's father died in a goods yard accident before Driscoll was one. His mother was forced to accept parish relief to bring up her four children, and soon the family moved into a boarding house with another five people in 3 Ellen Street. Elizabeth was forced to take a job shovelling vegetables and fish from the hulls of ships at Cardiff Docks. Growing up in poverty, Driscoll took employment while still a boy, becoming a printer's devil for the Evening Express in St. Mary Street in Cardiff.
Driscoll was an apprentice with the Western Mail printing works, when he began boxing in the fairground booths of south Wales. He fought on the boxing booths of South Wales for a number of years and had somewhere in the region of 600 fights before turning professional in 1901, and by the end of the year he had secured twelve wins without defeat. The following year, of the seven recorded fights, he only failed to win once, a draw with Harry Mansfield in Cardiff. Between 1903 and 1904 Driscoll continued fighting, mainly in Wales, but on 22 February 1904 he fought his first match at the National Sporting Club in London, a points decision win over Boss Edwards. That year he also suffered his first defeat in a return bout against Mansfield, losing by points in a ten round clash.
On 26 February 1906, Driscoll took the British featherweight title by defeating Joe Bowker in a 15 round contest at the National Sporting Club. He undertook four more fights before his first defence, which included beating Mansfield by knockout in their fourth meet. His first title defence, held on 3 June 1907, was a copy of his title win, another contest with Bowker at the National Sporting Club in Covent Garden. This time it was a twenty round match and Driscoll stopped his opponent in the seventeenth via a knockout.
The 24 August 1907 is recorded as a non-contest fight between Driscoll and fellow Welshman Freddie Welsh. Boxing historians such as Andrew Gallimore have cast doubt on this being a professional contest and instead a display fight at a fairground. Welsh supposedly took advantage of this situation and attacked Driscoll with kidney and rabbit punches. Driscoll never forgave his former friend for taking such liberties.
On 24 February 1908, Driscoll faced New Zealander Charlie Griffin for the vacant Commonwealth featherweight title. Again fought at Covent Garden, the match went the full fifteen rounds with Driscoll declared champion on a points decision.
Boxing In The US
After claiming the British and Commonwealth featherweight titles Driscoll went to prove himself in the U.S.. American boxing fans of the era favoured all-action boxers, but they were won over by the Cardiffian's skills, giving him the nickname 'Peerless Jim.' (Another common nickname for him was "Jem," and in his home town he was affectionately called "The Prince of Wales.") Featherweight champion Abe Attell faced Driscoll in 1910; the Welshman dominated the fight, but with the "no decision" rule in place, without a KO he couldn't take the crown. Driscoll declined a rematch in order to attend an exhibition match in aid of the orphans of St. Nazareth House: "I never break a promise." He returned to the United States the next year, but a chest infection and an injury in a road accident sustained just days before meant a poor showing when he faced Pal Moore, losing by newspaper decision. He returned shortly after to Britain, and never got his title shot at Attell.
After becoming the first featherweight to win a Lonsdale Belt, Driscoll prepared for an eagerly anticipated fight against Freddie Welsh. The match was a disappointment, though, as Welsh's spoiling tactics upset Driscoll's style. By the 10th round, Driscoll's frustration boiled over, and he was disqualified for butting Welsh.
Driscoll's boxing career was interrupted by World War I, where he was recruited as a physical training advisor. In succeeding years, he continued to box despite failing health, relying on his skills to keep him out of trouble. When he died in Cardiff of consumption at the age of 44, over 100,000 people lined the streets for his funeral. He is buried at Cathays Cemetery in Cardiff, Wales, where fresh daffodils always adorn his grave.
A statue was erected in his honour near the Central Boys' Club, where he trained, in 1997.
Driscoll's final official record is 58-3-6, with 39 KO's, however due to the scoring practices of the time, that yields 6 no-contest bouts on his record. Newspapers used to announce a winner in no-contest bouts, and taking that into account, his true record is 63-4-6 with 39 KO's.
Driscoll bequeathed his Lonsdale Belt to his cousin, Tom Burns, who ran the Royal Oak Hotel in Adamsdown, Cardiff. Today the pub is decorated with Jim Driscoll and other boxing memorabilia.
In January 2016 an hour long documentary about him, "Jim Driscoll: Meistr y Sgwâr" (Jim Driscoll: Master of the Ring), was broadcast on the S4C television channel.