Freddie Welsh - Boxing Career - Return To America and First International Belt, 1907–1909

Return To America and First International Belt, 1907–1909

On arrival in the United States, Welsh met Fanny in New York and the two of them travelled to Philadelphia. On 2 November 1907, Welsh faced Cyclone Johnny Thompson at the National Athletic Club in the city. The six-round encounter ended in a 'no-decision' given by the press to Welsh. A similar result was given in the contest again a poor Boxer Kelly, before he faced Willie Fitzgerald at Spring Garden Athletic Club; another six-round bout given as a draw. Welsh then experienced his first American fight outside Pennsylvania when a bout was arranged between him and Dave Deshler at the Winnisemmet Club in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The ten-round bout went the distance, with Welsh victorious by points decision, and he was congratulated by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. at the end of the match.

Welsh went on to beat Eddie Carter in Philadelphia on Christmas Day 1907, Kid Locke on 2 January and then Maurice Sayers at the Milwaukee Boxing Club. He then faced local Milwaukee boxer Charley Neary in a ten-round match, the decision going to the referee Al Bright, who called the encounter a draw. This was followed by a fight against Chicago boxer Packey McFarland, one of the greatest lightweight boxers of history, which McFarland won on points. The contest caused controversy after Welsh was floored in the fourth round following what is believed to be a low shot. The referee failed to see the offending blow, and the match continued. When the points decision was announced there was jeering from the crowd, and accusations of favouritism were made, as referee Malachy Hogan was a Chicago man and had previously favoured Chicago fighters.

With fan frustration after the McFarland match, a rematch was arranged for 4 July, with Welsh facing just one opponent in the four and a half months between the bouts, Phil Brock. Welsh was meant to fight Dick Hyland, but blood poisoning to the Welshman's hand meant the Hyland fight did not take place. The Brock encounter, held at Vernon, California, was Welsh's first 25-round bout and ended in a terribly one-sided victory with a plucky Brock losing on points.

The rematch with McFarland was set for 4 July, Independence Day, to coincide with the World Lightweight Title fight between champion Joe Gans and Battling Nelson held in California. The Welsh-McFarland fight was gaining much press attention, and this increased after fight promoter and owner of the Jeffries Arena, Jim Jeffries, had offered Gans a $20,000 purse to face the winner of the bout in August. Betting was heavy for the match, and was to be refereed by Jeffries himself. Fought over 25 rounds, Welsh had the upper hand for the first nineteen, but after an announcement was made that Nelson had won in California, Welsh's game slipped with McFarland taking control. In the final two rounds Welsh took a heavy beating and was knocked down to the canvas in the last round. At the end of the encounter the decision from the referee was a draw. McFarland took the result badly and launched into a vicious tirade of abuse towards Jeffries, though Welsh too thought he had done enough to win in the first two thirds of the fight and sent a cablegram to Wales stating such.

After the McFarland draw, for the first time the American press began questioning Welsh's credentials as a champion contender, mainly due to his inability to finish off his opponent due to a lack of punching power. Welsh was hurt by the remarks that he was a 'snowflake puncher', and used his next three fights to prove his critics wrong. Johnny Murphy went the full twenty-five rounds but suffered a terrible beating, Frank Carsey was knocked out in round four, lying unconscious for five minutes; while Harry Trendall was laid out in the sixth.

Although Welsh was chasing Nelson for a title shot, Nelson took an eight-month sabbatical after winning his rematch in September over Gans. Around this time, Welsh received a promise of a fight from fellow Brit Johnny Summers for the European title holder, but the major challenger in California was Abe Attell, the featherweight champion of the world since 1906. Attell had run out of opponents, so after much advertising of the match, the two men met on 25 November 1911. Although Attell's boxing weight was half a stone lighter than Welsh's on the night, both men weighed in 128 lb (58 kg). Under stormy weather conditions, Welsh won by points in a fifteen-round match, with one newspaper reporting that although Attell didn't lose his featherweight title, he did "lose the title that he has held for years, that being the cleverest man in the game".

Welsh followed up the Attell fight with a narrow victory over George Memsic in Los Angeles, before heading to New Orleans to take a points victory over Young Erne and then a knock-out win over Ray Bronson. Shortly after the Bronson fight, Welsh learned that Nelson had no intention of facing him, deciding to face three more opponents before retiring; none of these talks included Welsh. Welsh just carried on fighting, with one final match in New Orleans against Young Donahue. It was an acrimonious affair before the bout started, and when Welsh rejected the referee before the match began, another referee was found, but was told to call a draw if no clear winner was apparent. When the fight reached its ten-round conclusion, the referee called a draw, much to Welsh's annoyance.

Welsh and Fanny headed East to New York, and on 7 May he made his New York debut against Johnny Frayne. The match went the full ten rounds, with the press giving Welsh the decision with a luke-warm report, comparing him unfavourably against Jim Driscoll. Welsh finished off his tour of America with far more convincing displays over Jack Goodman and Phil Brock. With his sights now on the Lonsdale Belt, Welsh travelled back to Britain.

On his arrival at Cardiff on 19 June he was greeted by a throng of admirers; one of the first to greet him was Jim Driscoll. Cars had been arranged to take Welsh through Pontypridd, and he asked Driscoll to join him on the journey. Despite Pontypridd having a population of 32,000 at the time, reports were made that 80,000 people lined the streets to see their hero's arrival.

Welsh began his British return with an encounter with Young Joseph at the Pavilion in Mountain Ash, a 20-round match which only reached the eleventh after Young was disqualified for two low punches. Just over a month later, Welsh was back fighting in Mountain Ash, to face little known French lightweight Henri Piet. The press were unimpressed with the choice of opponent, but Piet gave a good account for himself before retiring in the twelfth. After Piet, Welsh faced Joe Fletcher from England; it was a terribly mismatched affair which resulted in negative press reports towards Welsh's choice of opponents. In truth there were very few fighters of a sufficient calibre to test Welsh in Britain, but on 8 November, Welsh got his chance to face Johnny Summers, for the British and European Lightweight Championship.

The Summers fight took part at the National Sporting Club in Covent Garden, with a purse of £2,200 and the Lonsdale Belt at stake. Welsh took control in the first round and never let Summers into the fight. One reporter counted 200 successful blows to Summers head during the match, and he was bleeding as early as the third round. During the fight, some members of the crowd jeered Welsh's use of the kidney punch, which although not outlawed at the time was seen as unsporting; he was also cautioned by the referee for the use of his head in the fifth. The fight went the distance, with Welsh winning on points; in taking the Lonsdale Belt he was the pride of Wales and America, but many in the boxing fraternity of England saw in Welsh a cynical, cold and cruel fighter.

Read more about this topic:  Freddie Welsh, Boxing Career

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