Walter Rossi’s Great War: Welsh boxers in World War I

As part of a series looking at the history of the most prominent Welsh boxers during World War I, we consider the experiences of Walter Rossi.

Old bridge in Pontypridd

Old bridge in Pontypridd

In contrast to his younger brother Francis, the best years of Walter Rossi‘s boxing career seem to have been before the war.

The Pontypridd man had travelled to the US to forge a fight career. Little has yet been discovered about his time there, though – at the time of writing the BoxRec website has no records of his fights between an August 1911 bout in Pontypridd and a July 1914 one in Tonypandy.

Rossi’s return from the States is believed to have been so that he could fight in the war, but he was able to combine his military career with one in the ring.

I am grateful to local historian John Stone for the information that Rossi was in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA). John also notes that the Pontypridd Observer describes the fighter as ‘Driver Walter Rossi after his July 1916 draw with Joe Fox in Leeds; ‘Driver’ was a regular term used by the RFA, and its use suggests that the fighter was undergoing training in the UK at this time.

Rossi maintained a busy boxing schedule in the period 1914-17, graduating from local shows to major venues including the Liverpool Stadium, London’s National Sporting Club and Headingley Football Ground in Leeds.

In 1918 he fought just twice, both bouts taking place in France – presumably to entertain the troops. The second of those fights came on 4 November, just one week before the end of the war.

By this time Rossi would seem to have been past his best, although he would box on until 1929.

Stand-out fights on his record at this time include a defeat to Tancy Lee and a 1922 loss to Eugene Criqui in  a challenge for the French war hero’s European featherweight crown.

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