Tommy Farr

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Tommy Farr
Thomas George Farr

(1913-03-12)12 March 1913
Died1 March 1986(1986-03-01) (aged 72)
Nationality Welsh
Weight(s) Heavyweight
Boxing record
Total fights137
Wins by KO24
No contests2

Thomas George Farr (12 March 1913 – 1 March 1986) was a Welsh boxer from Clydach Vale, Rhondda, nicknamed "The Tonypandy Terror". Prior to 1936, Farr boxed in the light heavyweight division, in which he was the Welsh champion. He became British and Empire heavyweight champion on 15 March 1937. Farr is considered to be one of the greatest British heavyweight fighters ever, [1] and was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.


In the United States, Farr is remembered for his 1937 world title challenge against Joe Louis. Considered one of Louis' toughest ever fights, the bout lasted the full 15 rounds and the large crowd saw Farr hurt Louis on numerous occasions. However the final result was controversial, being a wide unanimous decision in favour of Louis, with the referee awarding him the fight thirteen rounds to one, while the judges scored the fight eight to five and nine to six, both in Louis's favour. The announcement of the decision was roundly booed by the spectators. [2] The bout was named The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year for 1937.

Boxing career

Early career

In his early career he didn't have much success. He garnered some wins but losses specked his record every two or three wins. [3] Most of his losses were against unknowns. He soon started improving, with a win over top contender Tommy Loughran in 1936. In 1937 he bested ex-champion Max Baer and earned a title shot against Joe Louis.

World title fight vs Joe Louis

On 30 August 1937, Farr fought world heavyweight champion Joe Louis at the height of his career at Yankee Stadium, New York City. He earned respect despite losing a controversial points decision after 15 rounds. Louis had knocked out eight of his previous nine opponents and proceeded to knock out his next seven, but was attacked and hurt by Farr. The 50,000 crowd booed when Louis won. [4] [5] [6] Referee Arthur Donovan, Sr. had seemingly raised Farr's glove in victory, causing controversy. Seven years later, in his published account of the fight, Donovan apologised for the 'mistake', claiming he had meant to shake Farr's hand to congratulate him for what he saw as an impressive fight. [7] "Mistakes" hardly ended there, however. Donovan's own scorecard, had 13 rounds going to Louis.

Though mixed accounts say Louis deserved the nod, 13 frames out of 15 prompted these words from a British sportswriter: "The verdict is that of a man either blindly partisan or afflicted with astigmatism. It is a verdict that justifies the beliefs that nothing short of the annihilation of Louis would have given Farr victory. That Louis won may not be disputed, but as I read the fight, there was only a fractional difference in his favour at the finish." [8] However, In Donovan's account, he stands by his scoring of the fight, claiming that while Farr's punches may have appeared to have done more damage than Louis's from the crowd's point of view, from his perspective and that of the ringside judges the opposite was true. [7]

Contrary views of the fight's result continued for many years. In The Encyclopedia of Boxing, as compiled by Gilbert Odd in the 1980s, Tommy's listing concludes its thumbnail on the championship bout with "...Louis came back strongly and clinched a narrow points verdict." [9] The actual ferocity of the battle and its level of competition, seldom contested, may be summed up by Tommy Farr, later on in life: "When I talk about that fight, my nose still bleeds." [10]

Later career

After the Louis fight, Farr was unsuccessful in several contests at Madison Square Garden, New York. These included a ten-round fight on 21 January 1938, against former heavyweight champion James J. Braddock, "the Cinderella Man". [11] [12] He also lost to Max Baer the same year, even though he had defeated him before. Farr returned to the UK early in 1939, enjoying a run of victories that year. He retired in 1940, but personal tragedies saw him lose his fortune. He ended up bankrupt, having to return to the ring at the age of 36 to make a living, during this time, he was taken under the wing of businessman Lesie T.Salts, the owner of Gwrych Castle. [13] Farr later ran a pub in Brighton, Sussex, in final retirement, and died on Saint David's Day, 1986, aged 72. He is buried at Trealaw Cemetery.

In 2007, Contender, a musical based on Farr's career, was composed by Mal Pope and premiered at the United Nations building in New York, followed by a season at Swansea's Grand Theatre. [14] A theme of the musical is that Farr's lack of success in the US resulted wholly from his refusal to co-operate with fight-fixing mobsters and bookmakers.

Notable bouts

ResultOpponentTypeRd., TimeDateLocationNotes [15]
Loss Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Don Cockell TKO7 (12)1953-03-09 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Ice Rink, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
Loss Flag of the United States.svg Lloyd Marshall PTS101950-12-04 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Market Hall, Carmarthen
Win Canadian Red Ensign (1921-1957).svg Larry Gains TKO6 (10)1939-05-17 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Ninian Park, Cardiff
Win Flag of the United States.svg Red Burman PTS101939-04-13 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Harringay Arena, Harringay, London
Loss Flag of the United States.svg Red Burman PTS101939-01-13 Flag of the United States.svg Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Loss Flag of the United States.svg Lou Nova PTS151938-12-16 Flag of the United States.svg Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Loss Flag of the United States.svg Max Baer UD151938-03-11 Flag of the United States.svg Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Loss Flag of the United States.svg James J. Braddock SD101938-01-21 Flag of the United States.svg Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Loss Flag of the United States.svg Joe Louis UD151937-08-30 Flag of the United States.svg Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York For World Heavyweight Title.
1937 Fight of the Year by The Ring Magazine .
Win Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Walter Neusel KO3 (12)1937-06-15 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Harringay Arena, Harringay, London
Win Flag of the United States.svg Max Baer PTS121937-04-15 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Harringay Arena, Harringay, London
Win Flag of South Africa (1928-1982).svg Ben Foord PTS151937-03-15 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Harringay Arena, Harringay, London
Win Flag of the United States.svg Bob Olin PTS101936-04-02 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London
Win Flag of the United States.svg Tommy Loughran PTS101936-01-15 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London
Win Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Frank Moody KO4 (12)1935-12-21 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Greyfriars Hall, Cardiff
Draw Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Frank Moody PTS151935-08-14 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg White City, Cardiff
Win Canadian Red Ensign (1921-1957).svg Del Fontaine PTS121934-09-03 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Mannesmann Hall, Swansea

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  1. "Boxing legend Sir Henry Cooper dies aged 76". BBC Sport. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  2. "Joe Louis v Tommy Farr". BoxRec. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  3. "BoxRec: Tommy Farr". Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  4. Crowd Yells Fury as Louis Gets the Verdict Daily News (Perth, Western Australia) , 31 August 1937, at Trove
  5. "After collecting the judges' votes, referee Arthur Donovan announced that Louis had won the fight on points. The crowd of 50,000 . . . amazed that Farr had not been knocked out or even knocked down, booed the decision. . . Speaking over the radio after the fight, Louis admitted that he had been hurt twice." Sport: Louis v Farr Time Magazine, 6 September 1937. (Paid subscription required)
  6. An authentic radio commentary on the fight's end is included in Mal Pope's soundtrack of The Main Event , from his musical Contender, highlighting the belief of commentator and audience that Farr was the real winner.
  7. 1 2 Donovan's Worst Mistake As a Referee The Mail, Adelaide, at Trove digitised newspapers, National Library of Australia.
  8. Farr, Tommy (1989). Thus Farr (Optomen Press HB ed.). London, England: W H Allen & Co Pic. p. 92. ISBN   1-85227-017-9.
  9. Odd, Gilbert (1989) [1983]. The Encyclopedia of Boxing. Secaucus, NJ: Chartwell Books, Inc. p. 46. ISBN   1-55521-395-2.
  10. Liebman, Glenn (1996). Boxing Shorts. Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books, Inc. p. 126. ISBN   0-8092-3216-2.
  11. James J. Braddock official site
  12. An abridged video of the 21 January 1938, fight at Madison Square Garden on YouTube
  13. Birmingham Daily Gazette - Saturday 07 July 1951
  14. Boxing musical given UN audience BBC News, Wales, 26 February 2007
  15. Tommy Farr's Professional Boxing Record. Retrieved on 2014-05-18.