Wales’ greatest boxers

Eddie Thomas statue in Merthyr Tydfil

Eddie Thomas statue in Merthyr Tydfil

Who are Wales’ best boxers of all time? Well, rating fighters across different eras and different weights is notoriously subjective.

How do you compare boxers who fought when there were only eight world champions in the classic eight weight divisions against today’s alphabet champions, with multiple crowns up for grabs across 17 weight classifications?

Old-time fighters tended to get into the ring much more regularly than modern professionals, battling through injury and other difficulties to keep the regular purses coming in rather than waiting for the right venue, the right opponent, the right TV deal…

We can study video of modern fighters and read countless opinions about them on the internet, but boxers from the early twentieth century may only live in the odd press report, or even in legend.

Given all those caveats, you’re not going to get scientific reasoning here. But, for what it’s worth, here are my 32 greatest Welsh fighters of all time:

32. Nathan Cleverly

Cleverly made an outstanding start to his professional career, but he was rocked by defeat to Sergey Kovalev and only time will tell if he deserves to move up this list – or to drop out of it altogether.

Read more on Nathan Cleverly…

31. Joe Erskine

Erskine was one of the most naturally talented heavyweights Britain has ever produced, but fragile skin and a shortage of power cost him when he challenged at the very highest level.

Read more on Joe Erskine…

30. Floyd Havard

Havard rose to nearly every challenge, but his poor physical state before his only world title opportunity cost the Swansea man any chance of dethroning John John Molina.

Read more on Floyd Havard…

29. Nipper Pat Daly

Daly’s remarkable exploits from his 120 recorded bouts win him a deserved place on this list – even though all of his fights occurred before he reached the age of 18!

Read more on Nipper Pat Daly…

28. John O’Brien

Unofficially the best middleweight in Britain from 1891-5, the Cardiff man was to challenge world champion Bob Fitzsimmons before he was struck by sciatica.

Read more on John O’Brien…

27. Eddie Thomas

A boxer of substance who cleaned up at domestic and European level, but froze when world title possibilities began to open up.

Read more on Eddie Thomas…

26. Robbie Regan

Regan came closer than most to becoming the first Welshman to claim world titles at two different weights.

Read more on Robbie Regan…

25. Ronnie James

One of Swansea’s finest, James lost his best years to World War II but put up a brave world title challenge against Ike Williams.

Read more on Ronnie James…

24. Lee Selby

The fourth Welshman to claim British, Commonwealth, European and world titles shot into this list with his stunning win over previously unbeaten IBF featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich. He has the potential to climb further up the rankings.

Read more on Lee Selby…

23. Gavin Rees

A truly natural boxing talent whose ability took him to a world title, despite his own personal demons.

Read more on Gavin Rees…

22. Steve Robinson

Wales’ own ‘Cinderella Man’ grasped his world title chance and ran with it, beating all-comers until running into Naseem Hamed.

Read more on Steve Robinson…

21. Cyril Gallie

An outstanding amateur who then impressed as a professional in America in 1946, Gallie may have appeared much higher up this list had World War II not robbed him of the best years of his career.

Read more on Cyril Gallie…

20. Johnny Owen

An outstanding fighter who had conquered all at domestic and European level, Owen was in contention with the world’s best when tragedy struck.

Read more on Johnny Owen…

19. Llew Edwards

The Rhondda man became British and Empire featherweight champion and the lightweight champion of Australia, but by the time he challenged the best in the States he was past his best.

Read more on Llew Edwards…

18. Fred Dyer

A knee injury meant that ‘the Singing Boxer’ never quite fulfilled his potential, but his formidable record still boasts a win over Panama Joe Gans.

Read more on Fred Dyer…

17. Dai Dower

The flyweight’s outstanding skills raised the hope that he would be Wales’ first world champion since Jimmy Wilde, but by the time he faced champion Pascual Perez he was way past his best.

Read more on Dai Dower…

16. Tom Thomas

Wales’ first winner of a Lonsdale Belt, the formidable Thomas may have gone on to greater glories but for rheumatism and a tragically early death.

Read more on Tom Thomas…

15. Gipsy Daniels

The well-travelled Daniels was a stalwart of the British, European and US scene in the 1920s and ’30s and could boast of a first-round knock-out win over Max Schmeling.

Read more on Gipsy Daniels…

14. Brian Curvis

The Swansea southpaw proved unstoppable on his journey towards a world welterweight title shot, but he could not overcome one of the all-time greats – champion Emile Griffith.

Read more on Brian Curvis…

13. Johnny Basham

A fighter who lived up to his name, Basham cleaned up at domestic and European level before running into his nemesis, the great Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis.

Read more on Johnny Basham…

12. Frank Moody

A legend on the domestic middleweight scene, Moody took his talents to the States where he beat Hall-of-Famers Kid Norfolk and Lou Bogash and challenged the great Harry Greb.

Read more on Frank Moody…

11. Tommy West

Amongst the toughest men on this list, West spent nearly all his career in the States where he faced seven world champions and five men who would make the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Read more on Tommy West…

10. Eddie Morgan

Morgan took on the best that America had to offer in the early years of the twentieth century and may have been Wales’ first world champion were it not for the ‘no decision’ rules.

Read more on Eddie Morgan…

9. Jack Petersen

Petersen was one of Britain’s greatest heavyweights who competed in some of the division’s greatest fights – but had he stayed at light-heavyweight he might have ruled the world.

Read more on Jack Petersen…

8. Colin Jones

The Gorseinon welterweight carried dynamite in each fist, but two questionable Nevada decisions cost him the chance of world glory.

Read more on Colin Jones…

7. Tommy Farr

Put up the bravest of challenges for Joe Louis’s world heavyweight crown and held his own against the best in one of the division’s golden eras.

Read more on Tommy Farr…

6. Percy Jones

Wales’ first world champion rose to the top, but World War I cut him off at his peak.

Read more on Percy Jones…

5. Howard Winstone

Winstone possessed one of the sweetest left hands of all time, a weapon that prompted the great trainer Angelo Dundee to enthuse that he was “the nearest I have ever seen to the great Willie Pep”.

Read more on Howard Winstone…

4. Jim Driscoll

The ultimate boxing stylist whose ‘peerless’ skills enthralled boxing connoisseurs on both sides of the Atlantic.

Read more on Jim Driscoll…

3. Freddie Welsh

One of the greatest lightweights of all time, Welsh was a ferocious competitor who always found a way to win – as he did in his showdown with his closest rival on this list, Jim Driscoll.

Read more on Freddie Welsh…

2. Joe Calzaghe

Ignore the misguided criticisms that Calzaghe ducked fights – he mastered boxing in the modern age, eventually gaining the stage where his phenomenal talents were able to shine. The only fighter on this list with a 100% record.

Read more on Joe Calzaghe…

1. Jimmy Wilde

‘The Ghost with the Hammer in his Hand’s’ relentless quest to face and knock out the best – whatever the obstacles in his way – just wins him the vote ahead of modern-day legend Calzaghe.

Read more on Jimmy Wilde…

10 Responses to Wales’ greatest boxers

  1. greatest January 8, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    what the hell is this..!!?
    there’s lot of bums here @@..(except jimmy wilde and freddie welsh)=_=
    where’s BOB FITZIMMONS,Ted KID Lewis and lennox lewis??

    • Sean Davies January 12, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      Hi Kevin, the list is of the greatest Welsh boxers of all time – neither Fitzsimmons, Kid Lewis or Lennox Lewis are Welsh so they don’t qualify

  2. Peach May 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Just read this out in Afghanistan …
    I applaud the Website and the boxers on your list but think David “Bomber” Pearce deserves a spot especially due to the trials and tribulation he went through to become Welsh and British Heavyweight Champion he also had the European Heavyweight Champion down three times with two Broken a Hands and beat the 3 x WBC World Light Heavyweight Champion in 7 Dennis Andries by KO.

    He was a gentleman and never moaned Frank Maloney said of David Pearce “He would have fought anybody they don’t make them like him anymore”

    It was his Birthday today RIP Bomber x

    • David townsend October 27, 2017 at 7:22 am #

      Very well said Peach, David was all heart, and punching power, and an extremly nice guy,

  3. Sean Davies May 13, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    Hi Peach, thanks for the comment. As you can see David Pearce didn’t quite make my top 30, but he is in the ‘hall of fame’, his profile page is here

    • Kelz July 4, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      Reply to Sean Davies Re: David Pearce.

      Firstly, Do you actually know who the David Pearce was ??

      An extremely ferocious Fighter, who was The British Heavyweight who SHOULD of been a Cruiserweight Champ of The World. He faught with Pure Heart and Outstanding Courage every single Fight. At 10 yrs of age He was already becoming a successful Boxer with winning Senior Amateur Titles and in his teens He was soon a Professional at The Profession He eagerly took on so Naturally. Tragically, His Ambitions was cut short right at the peek of His Career. David Pearce Is NO:1 and should be at NO:1 to be REMEMBERD as The Unstoppable, Incredible Boxer He was from Newport, South Wales, GB. The Real Rocky Balboa undoubtebly.

      Sender : Mark Ball

  4. Mansel March 5, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    One word Enzo ?

  5. Laurie Williams April 18, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    I’ll agree with your top 5 but would probably change the order slightly, but a great list and one that anyone could debate for a few hours.

  6. Dave scerri September 5, 2016 at 6:00 am #

    Pat Thomas Philip edwards are 2 you left out

  7. Diane Hutchings March 3, 2018 at 7:27 pm #

    Trying to find out about my relative Samuel Galliver who was lightweight champion of wales (probably amateur). We think he also fought for money possibly bare knuckle. He was born in Cardiff in 1870 and we think he worked in the dockyard. Any info gratefully received.

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