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Champion Boxer Honours Legend

One of Wales’s most famous boxing champions “came home” to unveil an historic Blue Plaque in memory of one of the county borough’s fighting forefathers.

Dai Dower MBE, the 75-year-old champion boxer made a special visit to Pontypridd to unveil a Blue Plaque to remember the late Freddie Welsh on the sight of his former training club opposite the town’s train station.

Guest of honour Mr Dower retired at the relatively tender age of 25, after a five year career that took in the British, Empire & European flyweight championships, an Olympic and world title challenge and 37 action packed fights.

Now living in Bournemouth following his retirement from the city’s university where he worked as a trainer, Mr Dower was joined by lifelong friend, and former sparring partner Cllr Alby Davies. Also attending the special event was Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, Cllr Margaret Davies and former Welsh boxer Albert Cross.

Champion Boxer Honours Legend

boxer-unveilFor almost two years Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Libraries & Museums Service has been working closely with various voluntary organisations and individuals to determine 30 sites in the county borough as yet unrecognized for their historical background with the placing of a Blue Plaque

Due to £49,200 of Heritage Lottery funding, the project has set out to identify icons, events and buildings, culminating in the placing of blue plaques to commemorate their history and achievements. A series of articles appeared in the local and national press along with television and radio coverage to encourage people to nominate their own site.

Following consultation with community representatives and historical societies, an audit was carried out to catalogue all existing memorials, statues and plaques in Rhondda Cynon Taf. People, places or events which already have a plaque commemorating them are ineligible for a Blue Plaque, as are anyone who died less than 10 years ago.

More than 180 nominations were received and representatives of historical societies in each area met with Council officers to undertake the unenviable task of deciding which areas will receive the Blue Plaques. It was agreed that one of those plaques should be unveiled to remember Pontypridd-born fighter Freddie Welsh.

Champion Boxer Honours Legend

The son of a successful businessman, Freddie suffered frequent illnesses as a child and was sent to California for his health and took up boxing as a result of a suggestion from his physical fitness instructor He became so good at the sport that he decided to make a living out of it and he turned professional in 1905. He took the name Freddie Welsh to prevent his mother from learning of his new career but was also known as the Welsh Wizard.

In 1909, Welsh was awarded the first Lonsdale Belt, in recognition of his winning the European lightweight boxing title. In 1914, he won the World Lightweight title on a points decision against Ritchie in London. He retained the title until May 1917, when he was knocked out at the Manhattan Athletic Club by Benny Leonard.

During the First World War Freddie served as a lieutenant and helped disabled veterans at the Walter Reed Hospital. He was discharged a Captain and returned to the ring in December, 1920.

He retired from boxing after a defeat by Archie Walker in 1922, but retired as a wealthy man. He bought a health farm and a gymnasium but fell on hard times and died penniless in New York in 1927. He was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1960 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in1997.

Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf Cllr Margaret Davies said: “The ongoing series of unveiling ceremonies to famous people, events and locations throughout the county borough is a testament to the rich historical, industrial and cultural heritage which we are all justifiably proud of in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

“The sport of boxing has always been extremely popular in the industrial valleys of South Wales and we have certainly produced many fine men of this caliber. It was an honour to unveil a Blue Plaque to remember Freddie Welsh, one of the greatest of them all, particularly when this was done in the presence of Dai Dower, himself a world-famous champion and indeed a gentlemen in every sense of the word.”

"For more information on Rhondda Cynon Taf's Blue Plaque Scheme, visit the Library, Museum and Heritage Service's Online Heritage Trail website at www.rhondda-cynon-taf.gov.uk/heritagetrail"

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