Jimmy Wilde

Last updated

Jimmy Wilde
Jimmy Wilde.jpg
Real nameWilliam James Wilde
Nickname(s)The Mighty Atom
The Tylorstown Terror
Ghost with the Hammer in his Hand
Weight(s) Flyweight
Height5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Reach66 in (168 cm)
Born(1892-05-15)15 May 1892
Quakers Yard, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
Died10 March 1969(1969-03-10) (aged 76)
Whitchurch, Cardiff, Wales
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights141
Wins by KO99
No contests5

William James Wilde (15 May 1892 – 10 March 1969) was a Welsh professional boxer and world boxing champion. Often regarded as the greatest British fighter of all time, he was the first official world flyweight champion and was rated by American boxing writer Nat Fleischer, as well as many other professionals and fans including former boxer, trainer, manager and promoter, Charley 'Broadway' Rose, as "the Greatest Flyweight Boxer Ever". Wilde earned various nicknames such as, "The Mighty Atom," "Ghost with the Hammer in His Hand" and "The Tylorstown Terror" due to his bludgeoning punching power. While reigning as the world's greatest flyweight, Wilde would take on bantamweights and even featherweights, and knock them out. [1] As well as his professional career, Wilde participated in 151 bouts judged as 'newspaper decisions', of these he boxed 70 rounds, won 7 and lost 1, with 143 being declared as 'no decisions'. Wilde has the longest recorded unbeaten streak in boxing history, having gone 104-0.

Boxing combat sport

Boxing is a combat sport in which two people, usually wearing protective gloves, throw punches at each other for a predetermined amount of time in a boxing ring.

Flyweight is a weight class in combat sports.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.


Early years

Jimmy Wilde's birth certificate states that he was born in the Taff Bargoed Valley community of Pentwyn Deintyr) (now known as the Graig), Quakers Yard, Treharris, Wales, in the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil. His parents later moved to the village of Tylorstown in the Rhondda Valley when Wilde was around 6 years old. [2] Wilde was the son of a coal miner and worked in the coal pits himself. He was small enough to crawl through gullies impassable to most of his colleagues. He started boxing at the age of sixteen in fairground boxing booths, where crowds were amazed by his toughness and ability to knock down much larger opponents, most of which were local men weighing around 200 lbs. In 1910, Wilde married his wife Elizabeth and was a father the same year. He left Tylorstown Colliery in 1913.

Pentwyn Deintyr is a small Welsh community between Quakers Yard and Nelson, Caerphilly. The name Pentwyn Deintyr is a link with the early woollen industry in the district. The name originates where 'tenterhooks' were used in the process of stretching the wool.

Quakers Yard village in United Kingdom

Quakers Yard is a village in the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough, situated where the Taff Bargoed Valley joins the Taff Valley. Quakers Yard is part of the community of Treharris.

Treharris town in the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough of Wales

Treharris is a small town and community in the Taff Bargoed Valley in the south of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough, South Wales. It is located about 0.6 miles (1.0 km) west of Trelewis, from which it is separated by the Taff Bargoed river, and 0.9 miles (1.4 km) from Nelson in Caerphilly county borough and has a population of 6,252, increasing to 6,356 at the 2011 Census. As a community, Treharris includes the villages of Quakers Yard and Edwardsville. Due to steepness and narrowness of both the Taff and Taff Bargoed valleys at Treharris several notable bridges and viaducts have been built in the area.

Professional career

The record books often show that Wilde started boxing professionally in 1911, but it is widely assumed (and later confirmed by boxing analysts) that he had been fighting professionally for at least four years before that. His claim that he had at least 800 fights is probably greatly exaggerated, but it was rather more than the 152 shown in Boxrec and elsewhere. His officially listed debut was on 26 December 1910, when he fought Les Williams to a no-decision in three rounds. His first win came on 1 January 1911, when he knocked out Ted Roberts in the third round

A knockout is a fight-ending, winning criterion in several full-contact combat sports, such as boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, mixed martial arts, karate, some forms of taekwondo and other sports involving striking, as well as fighting-based video games. A full knockout is considered any legal strike or combination thereof that renders an opponent unable to continue fighting.

Managed by Teddy Lewis, reserve captain of local rugby club, Pontypridd RFC, [3] Wilde went undefeated in 103 bouts, all of which were held in Britain, a remarkable achievement. In the middle of that streak, on 31 December 1912, he won the British 7 stone championship by beating Billy Padden by an eighteenth-round knockout in Glasgow. He finally lost his undefeated record when he challenged Tancy Lee for the vacant British and Europe Flyweight Championship on 15 January 1915 in London. Wilde was knocked out in the seventeenth round (of twenty).

Rugby union Team sport, code of rugby football

Rugby union, commonly known in most of the world simply as rugby, is a contact team sport which originated in England in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In its most common form, a game is between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field with H-shaped goalposts at each end.

Pontypridd RFC sports club

Pontypridd Rugby Football Club are a rugby union team from Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales. They compete in the Principality Premiership, which they won for four consecutive seasons between 2012 and 2015, and the WRU National Cup which they have won on 6 occasions with the most recent being in 2014.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

William Howard Robinson: A Welsh Victory at the National Sporting Club, 31 March 1919. (The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, congratulates Jimmy Wilde.) William Howard Robinson A Welsh Victory at the National Sporting Club 1919.jpg
William Howard Robinson: A Welsh Victory at the National Sporting Club, 31 March 1919. (The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, congratulates Jimmy Wilde.)

In 1915, Wilde was hospitalized, requiring an operation for "an internal complaint". [4] After a sixteen-fight knockout streak, on 14 February 1916 he won the British flyweight title by beating Joe Symonds by a knockout in round twelve at the National Sporting Club in London. [5] On 24 April 1916, Wilde beat Johnny Rosner by a knockout in the eleventh round at Liverpool Stadium to win the IBU World Flyweight title. On 13 May, he had two fights on the same day at Woolwich Dockyard (against Darkey Saunders and Joe Magnus), winning both by knockout, both fights combined lasting less than five rounds. On 26 June Wilde returned to the National Sporting Club to take his revenge on Tancy Lee with an eleventh-round knockout. On 18 December, Wilde became recognised as the first World Flyweight Champion (the IBU title was only recognised in Europe) when he defeated Young Zulu Kid of the United States, knocking him out in the eleventh round of their bout at the Holborn Stadium. [6]

Hubert Toms, better known as Joe Symonds, Young Joe Symonds, or Young Symonds, was a British boxer who held the British, European, and World flyweight titles.

The National Sporting Club was a club founded in London in 1891, which did more to establish the sport of boxing in Great Britain than any other organisation.

Liverpool Stadium

Liverpool Stadium was a purpose-built boxing arena situated on St Paul's Square, Bixteth Street in Liverpool, England. The foundation stone was laid by the Earl of Lonsdale on 22 July 1932, and it opened to the public on 20 October 1932. The facade was finished in faience tiling with Art Deco detail, as were the lobby, corridors and public areas inside. The arena itself was wood panelled. The architect was Kenmure Kinna.

In late December 1916, after being rejected on two previous occasions due to an old leg problem from a colliery accident and for being underweight, Wilde was accepted into the British Army and while never seeing active service, became an instructor at Aldershot. [7] [8]

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

Aldershot town in Hampshire, UK

Aldershot is a town in the Rushmoor district of Hampshire, England. It lies on heathland in the extreme northeast corner of the county, about 31.8 mi (51.2 km) southwest of London. The area is administered by Rushmoor Borough Council. The town has a population of 36,321, while the Aldershot Urban Area, a loose conurbation has a population of 243,344, making it the thirtieth-largest urban area in the UK.

In 1917, he retained the world title by beating George Clarke by a knockout in four. With that win, he also won the European title and recovered the British title. But that would be his last title defence, as soon he decided to vacate the world title. He kept fighting and winning, and in 1919, he beat Joe Lynch, another boxer who was a world champion, by decision in 15.

Wilde travelled to the United States for a series of fights, and on 6 December 1919, lost to "Little" Jackie Sharkey in a ten-round newspaper decision of the Milwaukee Journal before a crowd close to 8,000 at the Auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [9] Sharkey was considered a decisive winner, taking eight of the ten rounds according to the newspapermen at ringside. Wilde had been away from the ring for months, and was outweighed by Sharkey by seven pounds. Sharkey's blows were said to land more frequently and with greater force. Sharkey's win was at least a minor upset as Wilde led in the early betting 2 to 1. The American newspaper's decisions were questioned by many British boxing journalists. [10] [11]

In 1920, Wilde went undefeated in 10 fights, but then, he lost by a knockout in 17 to former World Bantamweight Champion Pete Herman, who outweighed him by more than a stone (14 pounds), in 1921. [12] [13] The bout was originally scheduled as a title defence, but Herman had lost his championship to Lynch the month before. Herman easily regained the Bantamweight title from Lynch in July 1921, leading some to suspect that he had left the title behind with Lynch in America intentionally. That was the fight that marked his return to Britain after touring the United States all of 1920. After a win over Young Jennings, he announced his retirement.

Wilde returned to the ring out of a sense of obligation to defend his title against Pancho Villa on 18 June 1923 at the Polo Grounds in New York. After losing by a knockout in seven to the Philippines' first world champion, [14] Wilde announced his retirement before returning to England, confirming his decision on 1 January 1924. [15] [16]

In 1927, at the age of 35, Wilde was reportedly considering making a comeback, but never returned to competitive boxing. [17]


Having had his first book, Hitting and Stopping: How I Won 100 Fights, published in 1914, Wilde wrote two additional books, the instructional The Art of Boxing (1923). [18] and the 1938 autobiography Fighting Was My Business.

Wilde's son David followed him into a career in professional boxing, although without great success. [19]

In the 1930s he lived in a house in Hocroft Court, Cricklewood, from where almost all of his boxing trophies and medals were stolen in a 1936 burglary. [20] He became a boxing referee, including in 1936 refereeing every bout of a boxing tournament at the Hastings Pier Pavilion. [21] In December 1936 he was injured after being thrown from a car driven by a friend when it collided with a van near Hampstead. [22]

Wilde lived the last few years of his life in the Cadoxton district of Barry, South Wales. With his final boxing winnings, Wilde entered into several business schemes, including a Welsh cinema chain and partnership in a cafe at 5 Western Shelter, Barry Island that was named 'The Mighty Atom' cafe. None were successful and he spent his final years in poverty. [23] In 1965, Wilde suffered serious injuries during a mugging at a train station in Cardiff, from which he never recovered. [1] His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1967, [24] and two years later Wilde died in a hospital in Whitchurch. He was buried in Barry Cemetery.

Awards and recognition

With the longest unbeaten streak in boxing history, he went 103 fights before his first loss. Wilde had a record of 139 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw and 5 no-contests, with an impressive 99 wins by knockout. Ring Magazine, named him both the 3rd greatest puncher of all time, and the greatest flyweight of all time, and rated him as the 13th greatest fighter of the 20th century.

In 1990, he was elected to the inaugural class of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame and in 1992, the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame.

He was ranked as the top flyweight of all-time by the International Boxing Research Organization in 2006. [25]

Notable bouts

ResultOpponentTypeRd., TimeDateLocationNotes [26]
Loss Flag of the Philippines (1919-1936).svg Pancho Villa KO7 (20)1923-06-18 Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Polo Grounds, New York, New York For vacant World Flyweight Title.
Loss Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Kid Herman TKO17 (20)1921-01-13 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London
Win Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Memphis Pal Moore PTS201919-07-17 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Olympia, Kensington, London
Win Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Joe Lynch PTS151919-03-31 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg National Sporting Club, Covent Garden, London
Win Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Sid Smith KO3 (20)1916-03-27 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Pitfield Street Baths, Hoxton, London
Win Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Sid Smith TKO8 (15)1915-12-20 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg National Sporting Club, Covent Garden, London
Win Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Sid Smith TKO9 (15)1914-12-03 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside


  1. 1 2 Davies, Sean (17 December 2006). "90 years on..." BBC Sport. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  2. "Jimmy Wilde, Boxing legend dubbed the Mighty Atom". BBC South East. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  3. "Teddy Lewis Pontypridd RFC profile". www.ponty.net. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  4. "Jimmy Wilde Ill: Boxer to Undergo an Operation" . Western Mail. 22 April 1915. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  5. "Jimmy Wilde Defeats Symonds in Contest for Fly-Weight Boxing Championship" . Dundee Courier. 15 February 1916. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  6. "Jimmy Wilde Still Fly-Weight Champion" . Dundee Courier. 19 December 1916. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  7. "Jimmy Wilde for the Army" . Sheffield Evening Telegraph. 28 December 1916. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  8. ""Boy" McCormick Dies in Car" . Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough. 23 January 1939. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  9. "English Bantam Champ Loses Popular Verdict to American, El Paso Herald, El Paso, Texas, pg. 12, 8 December 1919
  10. "Wilde is Favored to Beat Sharkey", St Louis Post Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, pg. 12, 6 December 1919.
  11. "Yankee Wins Over Briton", The Daily Gate City and Constitution Democrat, Keokuk, Iowa, pg. 6, 8 December 1919
  12. "Jimmy Wilde Beaten" . Belfast News-Letter. 14 January 1921. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  13. "Why Jimmy Wilde Was Beaten: Herman Fully 16lbs. Heavier Than the Welshman" . The Globe. 14 January 1921. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  14. "Defeat of Jimmy Wilde in Fly-Weight Championship" . Dundee Evening Telegraph. 19 June 1923. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  15. "Jimmy Wilde Retiring" . Sheffield Daily Telegraph. 4 July 1923. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  16. "Jimmy Wilde" . Daily Herald. 2 January 1924. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  17. "Jimmy Wilde: Triumphs Which Cannot Be Repeated" . The Northern Whig. 29 August 1927. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  18. "Jimmy Wilde on Boxing" . Western Morning News. 22 May 1923. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  19. "Jimmy Wilde's Advice to his Son" . The Northern Whig. 19 November 1932. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  20. "Jimmy Wilde Loses Trophies" . Western Daily Press. 11 February 1936. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  21. "Jimmy Wilde to Referee Pier Tourney" . Hastings and St Leonards Observer. 28 March 1936. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  22. "Jimmy Wilde in Smash" . Nottingham Journal. 24 December 1936. Retrieved 25 December 2017 via British Newspaper Archive.
  23. Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 949. ISBN   978-0-7083-1953-6.
  24. Broadbent, Rick (19 March 2004). "Painting of Wilde offers chance of a brush with greatness". Times Online. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  25. "IBRO Rankings" . Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  26. Jimmy Wilde's Professional Boxing Record. BoxRec.com. Retrieved on 2014-05-18.

Further reading

Inaugural Champion World Flyweight Champion
18 December 1916 18 June 1923
Succeeded by
Pancho Villa

Related Research Articles

Benny Lynch British boxer

Benjamin Lynch was a Scottish professional boxer who fought in the flyweight division. He is considered by some to be one of the finest boxers below the lightweight division in his era and has been described as the greatest fighter Scotland ever produced. The Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer rated Lynch as the No. 5 flyweight of all-time while his publication placed him 63rd in its 2002 list of the "Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years". Like Fleischer, both Statistical boxing website BoxRec and the International Boxing Research Organization also rank Lynch as the 5th greatest flyweight ever. He was elected to the Ring Magazine hall of fame in 1986 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998.

Boxing in the 1920s was an exceptionally popular international sport. Many fights during this era, some 20 years away or so from the television era, were social events with many thousands in attendance, both men and women.

Pascual Pérez (boxer) Argentine boxer

Pascual Nicolás Pérez was an Argentine flyweight boxer. Pérez was born in Tupungato in the Mendoza Province of Argentina, he went on to make history by becoming Argentina's first world boxing champion.

Pete Herman American boxer

Pete Herman was one of the all-time great bantamweight world champions. An Italian-American, Herman was born Peter Gulotta in New Orleans, Louisiana, and fought from 1912 until 1922. He retired with a record of 69 wins, 11 losses, 8 draws and 61 no-decisions in 149 bouts. His managers were Jerome Gargano, Doc Cutch, Sammy Goldman and Red Walsh. Nat Fleisher, Ring Magazine editor and founder, impressively rated Herman as the #2 best all time bantamweight.

John Brown, better known as Jackie Brown, was a flyweight boxer, who was British and European flyweight champion, and was also recognised by the National Boxing Association as the World flyweight champion.

George Chip American boxer

George Chip was an American boxer who was the World Middleweight Champion from 1913 to 1914 in an era of great middleweights. Chip came to be known as a heavy puncher with an impressive knockout ratio.

Percy Jones was a Welsh boxer, the first Welshman to win a world boxing title when he took the World Flyweight Championship from Bill Ladbury in 1914. Jones also took the British and European Flyweight Championships from Ladbury in the same match.

Carmel Magri, who boxed under the name Charlie Magri, is a British former professional boxer. He is from a Tunisian family that settled in Mile End, London, where he grew up. During his professional career he held the WBC and lineal flyweight titles.

Walter McGowan, MBE, was a Scottish boxer born in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire. He was known for having been the world flyweight champion.

Johnny Buff American boxer

John Lisky, better known as Johnny Buff, was an American boxer. He was World Bantamweight Champion from 1921 to 1922. His grandsons are the modern-day boxing, wrestling and MMA announcers Michael Buffer and Bruce Buffer.

Sid Smith (boxer) British boxer

Sid Smith was an English flyweight boxer. He was the first officially recognized British flyweight champion, and was also recognized by the International Boxing Union as the World flyweight champion.

Bud Taylor American boxer

Charles Bernard "Bud" Taylor was an American boxer from Terre Haute, Indiana. Nicknamed the "Blonde Terror of Terre Haute", he held the NBA World Bantamweight Championship during his career in 1927. The Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer rated him as the #5 best bantamweight of all-time. Taylor was inducted into the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame in 1986 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005. Taylor was trained for much of his career by former light heavweight Champion, Mark "The Flurry" Feider.

Memphis Pal Moore American boxer

Memphis Pal Moore, born Thomas Wilson Moore, was an American boxer from Memphis, who claimed the World Bantamweight Championship in 1918 defeating championship claimant Johnny Ertle in Baltimore. He was rated as the seventeenth best bantamweight of all time by boxing.com, and was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010.

David William "Dai" Dower MBE, a British, Empire and European Flyweight boxing champion, was one of the most successful Welsh boxers of all time.

Elky Clark was a Scottish professional flyweight/bantamweight boxer of the 1920s who won the Scottish Area bantamweight title, the British flyweight title, the inaugural British Empire flyweight title, and the European Boxing Union (EBU) European flyweight title.

Dick Smith was a British light heavyweight and heavyweight boxer who was British light heavyweight champion between 1914 and 1916 and again in 1918.

James "Tancy" Lee was a Scottish boxer at flyweight, bantamweight, and featherweight, the first Scot to win a British title, and was also European and World champion.

Jackie Sharkey Italian boxer (1897-1970)

Jackie Sharkey or Jack Sharkey was an Italian-born American boxer who made a claim to the World Bantamweight Title on August 15, 1919 defeating reigning champion Pete Herman in a fifteen-round, no-decision bout in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His claim to the title was not universally recognized at the time. Jack Sharkey, also known as Little Jackie Sharkey, should not be confused with the heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey.

Maurice Huguenin was a French boxer who won the French flyweight title, and challenged for the European flyweight title on two occasions and the European bantamweight title once.