Book review: Champ in the Corner

Entertaining and informative account of one of the great boxing lives. The length of Ray Arcel‘s career as one of boxing’s finest trainers was matched by the quality of champions he worked with.

Freddie Welsh vs Benny Leonard.

Freddie Welsh vs Benny Leonard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Angles of interest for Welsh boxing enthusiasts include Arcel’s take on the way he prepared Benny Leonard to finally end the reign of long-time world lightweight champion Freddie Welsh.

He also talks about Dai Dollings, a Welshman who has been described as the Freddie Roach of his day.

Dollings had trained marathon runners in Wales before moving into boxing where he worked with the likes of Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis.

He moved to New York and the Grupp’s Gym in West 116th Street, the leading gym in the Big Apple before it was surpassed by Stillman’s.

Arcel, who was taken under Dollings’s wing, says that in 1914 the Welshman was one of the great boxing trainers in New York and that he taught him how to analyse people – an ability that was vital to a trainer looking to get the very best from his fighter.

Dollings was a strict vegetarian who kept to a strict regime of walking 10 miles a day, and he was reportedly still extremely active in 1942 at the age of 83.

Even more intriguing are Arcel’s thoughts on the Jimmy Wilde v Pancho Villa showdown at the Polo Grounds in New York in 1923:

p. 21 – “I saw one of the greatest clashes in ring history. Giving away pounds in weight and 10 years in age, Wilde traded punches with the fiery Pancho. It was a classic and the huge crowd rose to the game Welshman. Up to the sixth round Jimmy was holding his own. Then, when the bell rang for the end of the session, Jimmy dropped his hands and turned to his corner. At that very moment Villa let a sizzling right-hander go. It cracked Wilde clean on the chin. His eyes glazed as he fell into the ropes, then on to his face. His seconds rushed up and assisted him to his corner. But the damage was done, and Jimmy was in a bad way as he sat on his stool.

“It was here, I thought, that his seconds might have saved the day. They made only feeble protests. Had they set up a squawk that could have been heard a mile away, the referee would have been bound to do something. He might have been kidded into disqualifying Villa. The commotion would have given Jimmy a much-needed rest. And at least there would have been doubts cast on the legitimacy of Villa’s victory. But, no. They let their fighter come up for the next round, and he was knocked cold by the hurricane-hitting Filipino. I vowed I’d never let a fighter of mine be caught that way.”

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