Dai Roberts’ 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 Dai Roberts.

Willie Ritchie

Roberts worked Willie Ritchie’s corner on the night he lost his title to Freddie Welsh

Dai Roberts is perhaps the most obscure of the fighters featured in this series, but in his day the welterweight was a reasonably prominent sportsman.

His known professional record began with a rather formidable challenge in 1911 – he faced the great Jimmy Wilde in Pontypridd, and was stopped in three rounds.

Roberts continued his career with mixed success, and the Caerau man served as a sparring partner of Freddie Welsh.

When Welsh finally got his world title chance in July 1914, though, Roberts was working against him, serving in defending champion Willie Ritchie’s corner.

It’s unclear when Roberts joined the forces, but he fought four times in 1915, the last of those bouts a seven-round stoppage defeat to Johnny Basham.

Roberts joined the army as a rifleman on the western front and – according to boxing historian Gareth Jones – had been in the trenches for just a month when he was killed by a shell in France in July 1917.

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