Uncovering the past: The incomplete story of Jimmy Griffiths

Uncovering the past: The incomplete story of Jimmy Griffiths

Jimmy Griffiths’ knack of beating Welsh boxers resulted in him relocating to the south of the country to do it full-time. Ashley Ball tells a little bit more about his unusual story…

Jimmy GriffithsGriffiths seemed to enjoy an unusual time in boxing, which if records are to be believed, started in 1929 when he was just 13 in his native mining town of Barnsley in South Yorkshire.

He likely boxed more than 150 times over the next 13 years and he did so in six weight divisions before an injury in World War Two cut his career short aged 26.

The records of fighters from the pre-World War Two era, even in the modern age, cannot be seen as gospel due to reporting inaccuracies or a sheer lack of collation of results. Indeed some, like Griffiths’s, are only just being put together thanks to researchers digging into the goldmines of newspaper archives.

Still, Griffiths’ known slate still reads impressively with 84 wins from 144. It is likely, though, that there were more wins, losses and draws.

A number of Welshman suffered defeat to him but Griffiths’s most famous scalp is probably that of Leamington’s Dick Turpin. Griffiths outpointed a young Turpin in 1939, before losing a rematch later that year.

Turpin’s Randolph, of course, defeated the great Sugar Ray Robinson to win the world title but Dick was a fine fighter in his own respect – going on to win the British and British Empire titles at middleweight.

Griffiths boxed all over the country anyway but relocated to Maesteg at some point in the summer of 1939.

He had previously fought Caerau’s Welsh champion Ivor Pickens at Maesteg Town Hall, sandwiched between the two Turpin fights, where he was disqualified in the seventh round of 12.

From that point onwards Griffiths predominantly boxed in Wales or the South-West of England.

From his move, right up until 1942, boxing mostly at welterweight, Griffiths lost only to high calibre opposition in British title challenger Norman Snow and to two-weight British champion and European welterweight champion Ernie Roderick. A loss to Ogmore Vale’s Trevor Burt was seemingly just an off night.

Griffiths made it through 1941 undefeated. He featured regularly at Gess Pavilion in Pontypool as well as at the Little Theatre in Newport as he racked up eight wins in a year.

It is unclear how and why Griffiths upped sticks but beating Ferndale’s experienced Arnold ‘Kid’ Sheppard three times in 1936 probably gave him a decent reference.

His name perhaps hints to some Welsh ancestry but migration from Wales to South Yorkshire was more likely given the rich coal seams in the region and ample work.

Two swift losses to George Gale early in 1942, coupled with the precarious state of the war, forced Griffiths’ hand and he signed up to fight on a different front against the Nazis.

It was reported in the Barnsley Chronicle that Griffiths had been injured in France in August 1944. Incredibly, given his long fighting career, Griffiths, then a Lance Corporal, was only 26.

From that point onwards, very little was known about what happened to the former fighter but he had reportedly relocated to South Wales and his parents had moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire.

A Mr DS Powell, of Bridgend, wrote to the Chronicle in 1991 appealing for more information as to what became of Griffiths.

He wrote: “I am enquiring about an old friend of mine, Jim Griffiths. He came to Wales in 1939 as a professional boxer and formed a boxing stable at Maesteg under Mr Kid Hughes.

“I met him when he came to work with a firm of builders named Bowen and Thomas. I was a plasterer with them and he came as my mate.”

Mr Powell and Griffiths signed up to fight as soldiers together on May 16, 1940 and trained in Cardiff.

Mr Powell added: “My number was 3969410 and Jim’s number would be either side.

“Jimmy was a fine sportsman and good friend who wouldn’t hurt a fly outside of the ring and I would like to know if he still lives in Barnsley.”

It’s believed Jimmy died in 1984 but no obituary was printed in his hometown newspaper.

Are you related to Jimmy or do you know more about his time in Wales and after the war?

Contact: ashley.ball@barnsley-chronicle.co.uk

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