Boxing in South Wales (Early 1900s)

Gherardo Bonini a sporting historian asked for further information on the Welsh vs. Piet bout staged at the Mountain Ash Pavilion for the first European Lightweight Title championship fight.

The boxing newspaper Boxing News was established in 1909. Over the years they have published many Boxing News Annuals and Record Books. In the section covering European Championship Fights their records start from the year 1909.

Under European Lightweight Title fights the records start thus:

23-8-1909 Freddie Welsh (GB) W.ret 12 Rounds
(Mountain Ash) – Henri Piet (F)

27-2-1911 Matt Wells (GB) W pts. 20 Rounds
(London) – Freddie Welsh

11-11-1912 Freddie Welsh (GB) W pts. 20 Rounds
(London) – Matt Wells

Having annexed the World Title a Lightweight by out-pointing in London the American, Willie Ritchie- July 7 1914-Welsh who campaigned mostly in the U.S.A. was to relinquish his other titles- British, British Empire and European on 20-5-1917.

Other record books concur with the above facts.

However, Nat Fleischer’s The Ring Record Book and Boxing encyclopaedia, although giving Welsh’s record in full and mentioning the Henri Piet fight in Mountain Ash, dose not record it as being for the European title.
This fact maybe significant but it has also to be noted that early records do not always give all the facts, especially regarding European events as presented by American pundits.

It is of interest to note the sequence of Freddie Welsh’s encounters in Mountain Ash Pavilion, all in 1909;
July 12 Young Joseph (GB) W. 11Rounds.
August 23 Henri Piet (F) W. 12 Rounds.
September 6 Joe Flelcher (GB) W. 12 Rounds.

After Welsh relinquished his titles on 20-5-1917 according to the Boxing News Records the next European Lightweight Championship saw Bob Marriott (GB) W disqualified Round 3
Raymond Vitlet (F) at London.

Regarding the events of August 23 1909 the local paper:

The Aberdare Leader (with which is incorporated The Aberdare Times) page 4 Says very little re the covering of the encounter save the following: –

Saturday August 28 1909 – Deacon and Boxing

Last Sunday a meeting was held at – chapel Penrhiwceiber after the evening service Mr David Jones, Harris (?) Terrace a deacon of the church, addressing the young men adjudged – to be drawn to the event – boxing match to be held in the Mountain Ash Pavilion. Mr Jones, speaking quite heatedly, said that the exhibition was entirely wrong and would be detrimental to the young generation. Other speakers followed and made the same reference to the Pavilion.

The Aberdare Leader

Saturday September 4 1909 page 6
Mountain Ash Jottings
By “Lucifer”

Relics of the great fight between Welsh and Piet were still evident in the Pavilion. The wooded base in the centre with the four corner posts had not been removed. One London Journalist remarked that the Mountain Ash Pavilion was not very dissimilar to the Birmingham Bingley Hall, and that it would serve well for the great meetings arranged by Mr Asquith and Mr Balfour (Both at one time Prime Ministers of GB) but that a spar between these Right Hon, gentlemen in the ring would be a far more interesting night.

The Aberdare Leader

Saturday September 4 1909 page 7
Aberaman Minister on Boxing Contests

Speaking at the distribution of special prizes to members of Ynyslwyd Sunday School (a few miles from Mountain Ash) at the close of service on Sunday afternoon, the Rev. R E. Williams (Twafab) pastor made a casual reference to the contests recently held at the Pavilion, Mountain Ash. He thought it a shame that such eagerness should be displayed by thousands to witness those brutal contests. These prizefights encouraged gambling and betting and were the cause of damnation of people.

Though called by another name it was Animalism – base Animalism -, which prompted the promoters and those who took part. He was quite in favour of the training of the muscle, as that was favourable to the ultimate training of the mind. But not brutality mistaken for physical culture. The pursuit of study would be far more profitable than taking interest in prize-fights.

The Aberdare Leader

Saturday September 11 1909 page 6
Love of Sport
Rev. Cynog Williams and the church’s duty

With regards to the Mountain Ash contests why did not the Mountain Ash churches rise like one man and protest in the name of God against these exhibitions. Men of the worst types followed prize-fights and they helped to demoralize the place.

The Aberdare Leader

Saturday September 11 1909 page 8
Prize Fights:
Growing indignation of the churches.

It is intended to convene a meeting of representatives of all the churches in Aberdare and district with the view of driving some means of preventing any more prize-fights taking place in Mountain Ash.

Cont (same article) The following appeared in the South Wales Daily News:

Your to days description of the brutal ferocity of a recent fight in Pontypridd (4 miles from Mountain Ash) together with the announcement of another Mountain Ash battle compel me to enter my earnest protest against this epidemic of disgrace.

The Aberdare Leader

Saturday September 18 1909
The Boxing Contest
Aberdare churches protest
Newspapers and The Fights

A meeting to protest against the Mountain Ash prize-fights was held at Carmel Hall, Aberdare. With regards to the Pavilion (re Mr R H Miles) he had been told that the shareholders were not responsible. He understood that the Pavilion had been let out quite innocently to them who now organized the fights.
A speaker got up and condemned the South Wales Daily News for publishing reports of the contests.
A Voice: “And the Leader”
The speaker: “Yes, and the “leader and the Western Mail”.

The emphasis by The Aberdare Leader to publish comments by church and chapel represents who opposed boxing tournaments taking place in Mountain Ash Pavilion and elsewhere reflected a period in history when such places of religion held great sway with the public. However, boxing continued to be held at Mountain Ash Pavilion and elsewhere in the valleys for many years.

Written and researched by John Penri Hillman, March 18 2002.

South Wales Echo and /or Western Mail records would probably show coverage of the Welsh / Piet contest and clear up any doubts altogether as to weather a championship was involved.

Spread the love