Review: The Boxers of Wales – Swansea & Llanelli

Review: The Boxers of Wales – Swansea & Llanelli

Six years after The Boxers of Wales series began; Gareth Jones is back with another expert installment to document the journeys of both Wales’ unforgettable and forgotten fighters.

This time, the Cardiff-based writer focuses on the exploits of those from the west but its not exclusive to Swansea, tales are told of fighters closer to the Irish Sea in Llanelli and parts of Carmarthenshire.

There’s no person better equipped with the first-hand knowledge and front-line experience than Jones. Where that’s missing, it’s replaced by in-depth research, evident as he again educates readers with unknown anecdotes of heroes active long before the generation of BoxRec and YouTube encyclopedia historians.

Typical of all Jones’ books, a vast collection of boxers are covered and almost all reached at least Welsh title level. There are those few like Enzo Maccarinelli, Colin Jones and wartime hero Ronnie James, the first Welshman to contest a world crown, who ventured further up the ladder and they provide the book with its highlights.

With a timespan starting over 100 years ago, the fortunate fact that many of the region’s key figures are still alive boosts the book’s authenticity. The recollections from many trainers, managers and promoters aided Jones and he duly credits the likes of Paul Boyce and Jimmy Bromfield. However, this noble modesty, rare in an age of self-promotion, shouldn’t prevail over the recognition of Jones’ own true-storytelling abilities.

Though a celebration of the region’s achievements, the book isn’t a promotion and doesn’t stray away from reflecting on the darker sides of the sport. Episodes like Geoff Pegler and Ray Price’s vicious rivalry, both in and outside of the ring, are documented and it’s frequently noted when those boxers featured have benefited from the odd dodgy decision or two, such is the subjective tightrope that pugilistic officials balance upon.

Following the foreword by Welsh football national manager Chris Coleman, one of the books key themes emerges; record setters. From John Graham Chambers, who helped pen the Queensberry Rules that have governed boxing since 1867, to the Curvis brothers, who held British titles together, and Robert Dickie who… well, set all sorts of records

Touchingly, tributes are paid to the careers of those triers who are so much more than their journeyman label, those like John Kaighin and Miguel Matthews, fitting in nicely with the stories of unlikely heroes like Neville Meade, who collected belts against all-odds and expectations. The wide spectrum of focus obviously examines the modern combatants, like Welsh Area champions Tobias Webb and Chris Ware.

However, to demonstrate Jones’ versatility, the book also extends to back to the legend of Gipsy Daniels, unveiling the truth behind of the curtain that cast a spell on America in the 1920s.

Gareth Jones is the godfather of Welsh boxing journalism and if you’re serious about learning how this small country has punched above its weight for so long, then you must read every installment of The Boxers of Wales series.

The Boxers of Wales: Swansea & Llanelli is available from St David’s Press. Click here for more information.

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