Frank Moody

The man known as the ‘Pontypridd Puncher’ is one of the forgotten greats of Welsh sport and was the first Welshman to win British titles at two weights.

Frank Moody (1900-63) was from a fighting family of 13 children born to miner and former mountain fighter George Moody, and raised in Trallwn, near the old bridge in Pontypridd.

Frank was the eldest and most successful of seven boxing brothers, and his first known bout was at the age of 13.

He had started working as a miner at the age of 11, but fought his way out of the pits to forge a professional career of uncertain but significant length, with estimates of around 203 fights, 127 wins (around 69 by knock-out), 54 defeats and 15 draws.

Perhaps even more impressive is the depth and breadth of the opposition he fought and the places he took his talents, the Welshman’s record including 52 fights in North America.

Across the Atlantic he claimed 32 wins and nine draws, including victories over Hall-of-Famers Kid Norfolk and Lou Bogash, plus a showdown with one of the greatest fighters of all time, middleweight-king Harry ‘the Human Windmill’ Greb.

Having built his strength in the mines during the First World War, Moody became a full-time professional boxer at the end of hostilities.

He was learning his trade in the hardest of schools throughout England and Wales, and it was far from a tale of unbroken success.

At the age of 19 a big £125 purse persuaded him to agree to a showdown with the great Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall.

The Welshman lasted just 19 seconds, although he later claimed to have been weight drained going into the bout.

Moody battled on around Britain for the next three years, claiming wins over fighters of the caliber of Larry Gains and Gipsy Daniels, but seeing his progress stymied by fragile hands that he was unable to rest as he sought to support his wife and children.

At the end of 1923 he decided to try his luck across the Atlantic, crossing on the Berengaria with stable-mate Francis Rossi amongst his companions.

After four wins he landed a fight at Madison Square Garden, supposedly a world-title eliminator against Tommy Loughran.

Moody was bumped onto the undercard at the last minute, though, and had to be content with a three-round win over Arthur Cotter.

After eight successive successes on US soil, the Welshman came unstuck in a 10-round points defeat to the ‘Spaghetti Mauler’ Bogash.

A rematch against the man also known as the ‘Blond Italian’ was arranged at the State Street Arena, Connecticut, and this time Moody stopped Bogash in the 11th round – reportedly the first time his opponent had ever hit the floor in eight years as a professional.

Moody claimed wins over George Robinson and top-ranked middleweight contender Jock Malone, results that meant that – just four days after the Malone triumph – the Welshman was pitted into a non-title bout with world champion Greb.

‘The Human Windmill’ was one of the dirtiest fighters of all time and, arguably, the greatest middleweight.

He could boast a win over future world heavyweight champion Gene Tunney, something no other boxer was able to achieve.

The fight with Moody at Brassco Park, Waterbury, Connecticut – an Eastern League baseball park – on 16 June, 1924, proved too much for the Welshman.

“It was like fighting a dozen men, or an octopus with gloves on,” said Moody.

“Midway through the first round Greb butted me under the chin and as my head went back he gave me the lace of his left glove. He finished the stroke by jabbing his thumb into my right eye. The pain was deadly.”

A right to the heart in the fourth sent the Pontypridd man to the canvas before he was stopped in the sixth, although reports suggest some dubious refereeing and a final count that lasted just six seconds.

Moody showed little appetite for a rematch, though, later stating: “I knew I’d never get a shot at the title all the time Greb held it and, quite frankly, I didn’t mind a bit!”

The mauling at Greb’s hands seemed to take something out of Moody, and a points reverse against Bogash was included amongst some mixed results.

But redemption came against another Hall of Famer at one of boxing’s most iconic arenas.

The formidable Kid Norfolk had two wins over Greb on his record, but when he met Moody at New York’s Yankee Stadium on 21 September, 1925, the American was stopped in the fourth round.

A win over the well-respected Larry Estridge followed, before he beat Benny Ross at the Garden and then claimed another good victory over Lou Scozza.

The great Maxie ‘Slapsie’ Rosenbloom beat the Welshman on points, though, and the undefeated George Courtney condemned Moody to his only loss at the Garden.

More defeats followed – including a dropped newspaper decision against Bogash – and the venues became more far-flung, including Winnipeg in Canada.

Moody eventually returned to the UK in late 1926 with an estimated 172 fights under his belt.

He was remembered States-side by Ernest Hemingway. The great writer was notoriously parsimonious with his praise, but he described Moody in A Moveable Feast as “a good fighter”.

Still aged just 26 Moody was far from a spent force and, in his second fight after returning home, he claimed a 15-round points decision over Roland Todd at the Royal Albert Hall to win the British and Commonwealth middleweight titles.

He lost to his great Welsh rival Gipsy Daniels and dropped a points decision to Michele Bonaglia in Milan, but then won a 20-round points decision over Ted Moore at Covent Gardens for the British light-heavyweight title vacated by Daniels.

The Welshman took a series of bouts in Glasgow and Edinburgh, eventually losing his British and Commonwealth middleweight titles to Alex Ireland in the Scottish capital.

In 1929 a defeat to Harry Crossley in London cost him his British light-heavyweight crown, but he had enough left to claim another win over Daniels, and to draw with the undefeated Ernst Pistulla in Hamburg.

Moody toyed with retirement, taking a year out then – after a draw against Steve McCall in Cardiff – calling it quits for four years.

He returned with two victories in 1935, enough to earn him a shot at giant South African heavyweight Ben Foord.

The clash in Pontypridd – estimated as Moody’s 200th fight – proved too much for the veteran Welshman, who was stopped in the eighth round.

Next up was a clash with Tommy Farr in Cardiff for the Welsh light-heavyweight title, Moody battling to a 15-round draw with his fellow countryman who would later go the distance with Joe Louis. A rematch was scheduled in Cardiff, but this time Farr stopped his one-time hero in four rounds.

Moody fought just once more, against Frank Hough in London in January, 1936. He was stopped in the seventh, ushering him into permanent ring retirement and a post-fight career as a publican at the Royal Hotel, Milford Haven.

Moody was also involved in promoting boxing shows in west Wales, eventually retiring in 1959 and returning to Pontypridd for the last years of his life.


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