The middleweight was the son of a farmer from Glynarthen in Cardiganshire who then moved to Carncelyn Farm in Penygraig, Rhondda. On the farm he famously practised his sparring and footwork with Billy One-Horn, the Carncelyn Bull.
Thomas had enormous natural strength and he developed his boxing skills in the booths, but his career was dogged by rheumatism, a condition believed to have been worsened by his habit of diving into an icy pool at the farm.
His boxing reputation built quickly after his first appearance at the National Sporting Club (NSC), an institution where he quickly became a firm favourite as he built a big knock-out reputation.
A May 1906 win over Pat O’Keefe at the NSC secured the British title for Thomas, but his rheumatism then kept him sidelined for two years.
The west Walian’s winning run continued despite the long gaps between fights, and in 1909 he secured the Lonsdale Belt.
New champion Billy Papke, the ‘Illinois Thunderbolt’, was also an enticing opponent, and he now came into Thomas’s sights.
A British title defence was arranged against Jim Sullivan, with the winner in line for a shot at Papke’s crown.
Thomas insisted on training himself for the Sullivan bout, though, rejecting the help of his former trainer Dai Dollings. That, and Thomas’s inactivity and subsequent ring rust, played a part in the Welshman’s 20-round defeat, his first professional loss.
Sullivan subsequently landed a shot at Papke, the Englishman falling to a nine-round loss in June 1911.
Thomas was still trying to secure his own bout with Papke, but in August 1911 he fell ill after walking home in the rain and he died of pneumonia shortly afterwards.
- Gareth Jones, “The Boxers of Wales: Volume Three, Rhondda” (St David’s Press, Cardiff, 2012)
- Tony Lee, “All in my Corner: A tribute to some forgotten Welsh boxing heroes” (Ammanford, 2009)