The 26 March, 2014, marks the centenary of arguably the greatest win by Wales’ first world champion – Percy Jones‘ first defence of his crown against Eugene Criqui.
The Porth man had won the world flyweight belt in a punishing bout with Bill Ladbury on 26 January, 1914.
He had little time to enjoy the triumph, though, as he was pitched into a showdown with Criqui just 17 days later at the Liverpool Stadium.
The 20-year-old was a formidable foe, a teak-tough Parisian who would go on to become just the second Frenchman to enter the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Jones, 21, was ill prepared for such an opponent. He had struggled to make weight for the Bradbury bout, and those problems were exacerbated by an ankle injury.
The champion failed to boil down in time for the fight, meaning that his title was not on the line – fortunately for him, as he went on to drop a 15-round decision.
Jones managed to make the weight, and a contemporary newspaper account describes arguably the greatest performance of his career:
“Percy Jones and Eugene Criqui (France) last night fought for the flyweight (8st and under) championship of the world.
“The match was for £100 a side, and a £400 purse, and took place at the Liverpool Stadium. The contest lasted 20 rounds, when the Englishman (sic) beat his opponent on points.
“The result reverses that of the previous fight between these men about a month ago. On that occasion, after 15 keen rounds at Liverpool, Criqui was declared the winner on points. At the National Sporting Club a few weeks ago Jones beat Ladbury and won the flyweight championship of Great Britain and the Lonsdale Belt.”
Sadly, the bout was the last time that the champion was able to make the flyweight limit. His chances of exploiting the heights he had achieved were limited by the war, and the conflict itself would take his health and his life.
Criqui would also serve his country with distinction and had his jaw shattered by a sniper’s bullet at the brutal battle of Verdun.
He recovered, though, and his greatest boxing years were ahead of him in a long and colourful post-war career.