Beynon’s British best – 100 years on

Billy Beynon. By Cope's Cigarettes [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Billy Beynon. By Cope’s Cigarettes [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The 2 June, 2013, marks the centenary of former Welsh boxer Billy Beynon‘s greatest ring achievement – his British title triumph over George ‘Digger’ Stanley.

The Taibach man’s first recorded professional contest had come at the age of 19 in 1910 as the bantamweight looked to supplement his meagre earnings as a collier at the Navigation Mine in Bryn.

His early record was somewhat mixed, and when he stepped into the ring against Stanley at the National Sporting Club (NSC) there were five losses and seven draws against his name.

This has to be set in the context of the day, though, with young, promising boxers regularly pitted against experienced, high-quality opposition, with little thought given to massaging a fighter’s record.

What’s more, all of the Welshman’s defeats had been on the road – two in Dublin, one in Stroud and two in Newcastle.

The sort of bruising battles Beynon had to engage in are illustrated by the fact that he had already been involved in six fights that had gone their full 20 rounds, including his last three.

So it was a hardened 22-year-old who faced off against Stanley, an incredibly experienced 37-year-old who had fought at world level in the US.

The champion – a gypsy who was born in a caravan at Kingston-upon-Thames – had been boxing professionally since 1899, had won and lost the European title, and had been fighting at British title level for the last 10 years.

On the night he proved no match for Beynon, though, who again went the full 20 rounds to become just the fourth Welshman to hold a British title, following in the footsteps of Tom Thomas, Jim Driscoll and Freddie Welsh.

Beynon was the first Welsh holder of the bantamweight crown – the next would not come until 1977, when a second-year pro called Johnny Owen ripped the belt from Paddy Maguire.

Taibach’s champion would return to Dublin and Newcastle for his next two non-title bouts, but he lost both before drawing with Robert Dastillon at the Liverpool Stadium.

The poor results cannot have helped Beynon’s confidence ahead of his first title defence, an October 1913 rematch with Stanley at the NSC.

The former champion proved too strong over another gruelling 20 rounds, claiming the points win that secured him the first bantamweight Lonsdale Belt.

Beynon would next challenge Charles Ledoux for the European title, but the great Frenchman stopped the local favourite in two successive fights in Cardiff.

The gruelling series of bouts seemed to take its toll on Beynon. He never reached title heights again, although he continued to mix in high-quality company until his retirement in 1931, when he had engaged in nearly 200 bouts.

His life story has a heroic and tragic end – just two years after quitting the ring he was killed at work in Bryn Navigation Colliery, buried under a fall of rocks while trying to rescue one of his 15 children.

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