Joe Calzaghe’s 8 November, 2008, light-heavyweight fight against Roy Jones Jr went to New York’s Madison Square Garden rather than the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
I looked at the context of that fight within Wales’ short but drama-filled record of bouts across the Atlantic.
Now I can’t claim to have gone through every boxing record, so these stats are there to be shot at – I’m sure you won’t be slow if you see an error!
But – as far as I’m aware – Calzaghe became the first post-war Welsh boxer to fight in New York City; the seventh Welshman to fight there overall; and just the fifth to fight at boxing’s spiritual home, Madison Square Garden.
Of the other Welshman to enter the ring in the Big Apple:
Jim Driscoll fought in New York City four times (1908-9), against Matty Baldwin, Johnny Marto, Leach Cross, and in his classic clash with Abe Attell. He won all four (on newspaper decisions).
Jimmy Wilde fought just once in New York City, in 1923 in his final bout when he was knocked out in the seventh in a famous clash with Pancho Villa.
Llanelli-born light-heavyweight Daniel Thomas, who usually fought under the name Gipsy Daniels, enjoyed a colourful, well-travelled career. He won 86, lost 43 and drew 12 of his 141 known fights, and could boast a stoppage win over Max Schmeling in Germany. He fought eight times in the States in the period 1922-3, all the bouts in New York City. The Welshman defeated Stewart Bell (twice), Jack Douglas, Wally Stripp (twice), Len Collett, Fred Clarke and Wolf Larsen. His only defeat was a points loss to Charley McKenna. The second Bell fight and the Clarke bout were at Madison Square Garden.
Frank Moody, 'The Pontypridd Puncher', fought a remarkable 52 times in North America in the period 1923-6, winning 32 and drawing nine with victories over Hall-of-Famers Lou Bogash and Kid Norfolk and a showdown with one of the greatest fighters of all time, middleweight king Harry Greb. Nine of his US fights are known to have been in New York, Moody winning six, losing two and receiving one no-decision. The victory over Norfolk was at Yankee Stadium, while Moody claimed two wins at Madison Square Garden, against Arthur Cotter and Benny Ross. He lost his third Garden bout to the then-undefeated George Courtney. His only other Big Apple defeat was against the great Maxie 'Slapsie' Rosenbloom at the Pioneer Sporting Club.
Tommy Farr’s most famous New York fight was his first, a points defeat to Joe Louis at the Yankee Stadium in 1937. But that threw him into the premier heavyweight mix, and his next four fights (1938-9) were all at Madison Square Garden. Former champions Jim Braddock and Max Baer were first, followed by Lou Nova and Red Burman. Farr lost all four on points but made himself a firm favourite at the Garden, especially after the thrilling 15-round war with Nova.
Freddie Welsh’s remarkable career saw him fight 18 times in New York City between 1909 and 1922, facing Johnny Frayne, Jack Goodman, Pal Moore, Phil Bloom (twice), Joe Shugrue (twice), Willie Beecher, Ad Wolgast, Willie Ritchie, Johnny Lustig, Charley White, Frank Whitney, Benny Leonard (three times), Johnny Kilbane and Archie Walker. His record there was poor as he lost eight of the bouts, although six of those were no-decision newspaper verdicts.
Six of those fights were at the Garden, against Shugrue (2), Wolgast, Beecher, Ritchie and the first of Welsh’s epic trio of clashes against Leonard. Welsh lost four of his Garden fights, beating Beecher on a newspaper decision and Wolgast by TKO.
*As a related bit of trivia, I thought I'd mention the Welsh trainer Dai Dollings here. Having trained marathon runners and the great Ted 'Kid' Lewis in the UK, Dollings moved to New York where - in the period around 1914 - he worked with a young Ray Arcel, teaching him how to analyse fighters. Dollings was a legend at Grupp's Gym on West 116th Street, the top New York fighting gym before the emergence of Stillman's.
Any thoughts on the article or news on other Welsh bouts across the Atlantic welcomed...