Boxing at the Pavilion, Mountain Ash
After the Mountain Ash Pavilion saw the light of day one of the first big fights to appear there was between Fred Hall Thomas, who fought under the name of Freddie Welsh, a great lightweight who was born in Pontypridd, and a Frenchman named Henri Young Piet. This fight staged, at 9st 9lb, was the first European Lightweight Championship Contest and Fred from Ponty won after 9 rounds, the year was 1909. In 1913 Freddie Welsh won the World’s Lightweight Championship when he beat the American, Willie Ritchie in London.
The Pavilion at Mountain Ash had a capacity to hold 15.000 and that was bigger than the Albert Hall in London! The tragedy of this magnificent arena was that it was too big for the area it found itself in and it eventually became known as a white elephant.
However, many a great fighter appeared behind its doors, namely Jimmy Wilde World’s greatest flyweight, Jim Driscoll greatest featherweight of his day, whilst appearing in Jack Skaratl’s boxing booth. Driscoll fought Francis Rossi over 21 rounds to a draw in 1919 because no one could agree on the distance of the fight.
In 1935 Tommy Farr lost on points to Bow’s Eddie Phillips (re: Bow bell’s London the close proximity to “made you a true cockney”) after 15 rounds for the British light heavyweight title. It was a short period after this, that Tommy took advantage of the fact that the famous fight manager, Ted Broadribb had fetched his charge, George Daly to Mountain Ash for a clash with Abercwmboi’s Welsh lightweight champion, Boyo Rees in an eliminator for the British Championship and decided to walk from the Rhondda for a meeting with Broadribb who was staying in the Carpenters Arms, in Canon Street, Aberdare. He begged the manager to talk over his boxing affairs and finally succeeded. History tells the rest inasmuch as the fact that Tommy, stepping up to heavyweight, won all his contests leading to a World Heavyweight title clash with the great Joe Louis, in August 1937losing on points after 15 torrid rounds. Joe Louis a Great Heavyweight Champion who defended his title 25 times.
Boyo Rees, who was Welsh lightweight champion on two occasions, was born in Abercwmboi in 1912. He became one of the most popular fighters in the 1930’s and drew large crowds whenever he appeared. His brother, Norman also wore the gloves of combat and fought at middle & light heavy weight. He was chief sparring partner to Freddie Mills when he fought the American Gus Lesnevitch for the World’s light heavyweight title in 1946. Freddie Mills eventually beat Lesnevitch for the title in 1948 having been stopped in the 1946 encounter mentioned.
Other great fighters who appeared at Mountain Ash Pavilion were: Ted Kid Lewis, former World’s welterweight champ and Panama A L Brown World bantamweight champion.