Wales – and Merthyr Tydfil in particular – has chosen a distinct way to celebrate its boxing heritage, with a collection of impressive statues of its famous former fighters.
‘Peerless’ Jim Driscoll, Cardiff’s favourite son, had his monument erected in 1997 close to his Tiger Bay home and the Central Boys Club where he used to train.
Merthyr stands out for boxing monuments as it celebrates three of its greatest champions with edifices that are within a five-minute walk of each other.
The statues of Howard Winstone (map link) and Johnny Owen (map link) are in the heart of the iron town’s main shopping centre, with the Eddie Thomas monument a little to the north, behind the council buildings (map link).
The last of those to be made, that of Owen, was unveiled in an emotional ceremony in 2002 when Lupe Pintor – the fighter who had ended Owen’s life in the ring – travelled from Mexico for the occasion and to make his peace with the Owens family.
The statue has achieved iconic status, Mike Tyson making the pilgrimage to the site in 2009.
Given the popularity of the four fighters’ monuments, it is perhaps surprising that more characters from the Welsh boxing hall of fame have not been so immortalised.
In more recent times, in 2006 promoter Frank Warren talked about commissioning and paying for a statue of Joe Calzaghe in Newbridge following the super-middleweight’s unification win over Mikkel Kessler.
The split between fighter and promoter that came after the Kessler bout put paid to any immediate prospect of that happening, though.
*If you’d like to view the boxing statues, why not take a tour of Wales with Dragon Tours?