Jimmy Wilder – The Terror of Tylorstown
There are some good boxing records, some great boxing records, and some absolutely otherworldly boxing records. Jimmy Wilde, the Welsh boxer who plied his trade in the early part of the 20th century, falls into the latter category. (A warning to the reader. Record keeping was not the science during Jimmy’s active years, as it is today. I consulted half a dozen different sources to research this article and it seems fair to say that there is no consensus as to Wilde’s exact record.
Suffice to say, it was ridiculously good.) For the purposes of this piece, I chose to go with Jimmy Wilde ‘s record as listed by BoxRec and, from what I could glean from old news about it. So what we do know is that Jimmy Wilde’s record was around 131 – 3 – 1 (98 KOs). It’s not a typo, guys. It was the man’s record! Plus, he had around 150 “newspaper episodes”, losing just 1 of them. For the reader’s information, a fight / decision in a newspaper was a type of decision professional boxing.
It was made by a consensus of sports writers witnessing a fight after it ended inconclusive in a ‘no-decision’, as many regions had not adopted the National sports club of the London Rules for Judges and Referees. A “no decision” arose when, either under sanction of state boxing law or by arrangement between the fighters, both boxers were still standing at the end of a fight and he did not. there had not been knock out, no official decision was made and none of the boxers were declared the winners.
Sports journalists covering the fight, after reaching consensus, would declare a winner – or would make the fight a draw – and print the newspaper’s decision in their publications. Officially, however, a “no-decision” fight resulted in neither victory nor defeat for the boxers, and therefore would not be considered part of their official fight record.
This should not be confused with the unrelated and contemporary term of “no dispute”.
The development of boxing scoring, initially from round scoring by the referee and two judges, to modern three judges with the ten point system, has eliminated this practice.1
This means that in a career of around 285 fights, Wilde has lost a total of 4! He also boasted of a knockout percentage of just over 74%!
Despite these mind-boggling stats, Wilde is in danger of falling off the radar when the conversation reaches some of the all-time greats. There are several reasons for this – none of which can be laid at the feet of Wilde himself. The first challenge is that this great boxer fought a long time ago and there are only a handful of people left who saw him fight. Closely related to this is that because Wilde fought in the early 1900s, there is a dearth of video footage of him and the quality of the video is questionable. (I’ve embedded a clip of Jimmy here if you want to take a look.)
So, as is often the case when we talk about fighters of yesteryear, we have to trust his record, the relative quality of his opponents, and what those who watched him had to say – and in the case of Jimmy Wilde; it’s a lot. Well-respected and legendary American boxing writer Nat Fleischer has called Jimmy Wilde “the greatest flyweight boxer of all time.” The Ring Magazine, Bert Sugar said as much himself. Boxing promoter Charlie Rose said there was and never was a better flyweight. The list of distinctions is long. So where did this “Mighty Atom” come from?
Wilde was born in Treharris, Wales in 1892. His family was extremely poor, if not downright destitute. His father was, unsurprisingly, a coal miner. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom, who looked after the family. Jimmy joined his father in the coal mines when he was only 12 years old. It was very small and therefore was more than useful underground where the spaces were often so small that an adult man could not fit in. It’s not entirely clear when or why Wilde got into boxing, but history is a good teacher, so it’s easy enough to assume that they “why” was to escape the overwhelming work of the mines. of coal for little money at all.
Jimmy Wilde clearly had no desire to live his life under such dire circumstances. Various sources seem to suggest that he started boxing around the age of 16, at the annual and traveling county fairs so prevalent at the time. Jimmy quickly made a name for himself due to his uncanny ability to knock out men 2 and 3 times his size, cold. His family had moved to the community of Tylorstown, so the nickname, “The Terror of TylorstownWas quickly deemed appropriate and he stuck throughout his life.
As mentioned, Jimmy Wilde was very short, standing between 5 feet and 5 feet 2 inches and never weighing more than 108 pounds. Despite this, he possessed wicked power in both hands with blazing hand speed and unorthodox but smooth footwork. It saw Jimmy achieve what is yet the longest unbeaten streak for any boxer, 94-0-1… an incredible 95 fights unbeaten. (Some sources say the streak was 103 fights) And he fought a lot too. He had more than 30 fights in 1913 alone, and cut the approximately 285 fights of his illustrious career in just 13 years. That’s an average of almost 22 fights per year – unheard of!
Boxing was not ruled then as it is now, and in some ways it was even more disjointed. This made sanctioned world championship fights difficult, let alone recognizing one person as THE world champion. Thus, at the time, regional and / or national belts had more weight than today. A very prestigious belt won by Wilde was the coveted “Lonsdale” Belt.
The Lord Lonsdale Challenge Belt, commonly known as the Lonsdale Belt, is the oldest championship belt in British professional boxing. Hugh Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale introduced the award on behalf of the National Sporting Club (NSC), intending to award it to British boxing champions. Arthur frederick bettinson, manager of the NSC, introduced the conditions for holding the belt, which ensured its lasting prestige. 2
This meant that despite his wonderful record and minor belt streak, Jimmy Wilde was never recognized as the world champion until he beat an American fighter named. Young Zulu Child, in 1916. (Please note that Wilde had been crowned “World Champion” by the International Boxing Union or IBU, when he defeated Johnny Rosner in May 1916, but the IBU’s problem was that he didn’t was not recognized outside of Europe.)
The tragedy is that Jimmy’s recognition as a World Champion came so late in his career. When he first beat Zulu in 2016, he was only 22 fights away from his last fight. He wasn’t a “down” fighter per se, but he was certainly “worn out” and wasn’t far from his best. Jimmy would hold onto the title for about three years, defending it 9 times until losing to the little accomplished Jackie Sharkey (career mark 18-26-13) in 1919.
He would continue to fight for several more years, including a revenge victory over Zulu in 1920, before losing again in 1921 to the excellent American Peter Herman. Wilde retired at this point only to make an ill-advised comeback 2 years later to challenge the great Filipino world champion, Pancho Villa. Wilde had far passed his prime when he was just 29 and absorbed a beating at Villa’s hands that left him unable to travel for some time after the fight. Wilde retired for good after that.
Jimmy Wilde had made money during his career and, unlike most fighters, had actually hung on to the basics. He invested in cinemas, restaurants and other businesses. But, like his counterpart Villa, Wilde met a tragic end. At 72, Wilde was attacked, beaten and robbed at a railway station in Wales. He never recovered from the beatings and died about 4 years later in the hospital where he lived his last years; a sad end for a great man.
But what about his legacy? How good was Jimmy really? The answer can only be: “Awesome”. He has to claim to be the greatest British fighter of all time. For my money, I would say that no British fighter would deserve this particular designation more. I have time for Ted Lewis and I think of the world of Lennox Lewis and Chris Eubank. Tommy Farr, Joe Calzaghe and Ken Buchanan all deserve to be mentioned; but they are a far cry from Jimmy Wilde by comparison for me. (I read a list of the top 20 British fighters who completely omitted Wilde.
I’m still trying to digest this. Here is this list for your consideration. The inclusion of Duke McKenzie at Wilde’s expense is, for this writer, obscene). As for the image of boxing today, there are currently 4 different Flyweight champions recognized as nominated by the 4 main governing bodies (don’t get me started on this… 4 “champions”… just absurd).
They are Junto Nakatani, Muroti Mthalane, Artem Dalakian and Julio Cesar Martinez. I watched the tape of all these men and in my opinion none of them could hold a candle to Wilde. Of the four, Martinez, could give it a fight; but it is only a “power”.
Jimmy Wilde was too unorthodox with too much power for any of these guys. The other thing was Jimmy was just harder. His life was such that he had no choice but to be hard as nails; just to survive! I think “boxing” was probably the easiest part of his life.
Jimmy Wilde was almost certainly the greatest Flyweight boxer to ever live. But with time, the achievements of this “Mighty Atom” begin to sink into obscurity. It would be a shame. I hope that at least some of you will allow this article to inspire you to look at this great Welsh fighter and to look at him with new and grateful eyes. Jimmy Wilde, “The Ghost with the Hammer in His Hand.”