Boxing, more than most sports, seems to give rise to a lot of controversy over who is bigger than who. Will be Muhammad Ali Have you beat Mike Tyson? Was Marvin Hagler better than Carlos Monzon? Who was the best The Four Kings? Usually, I like to walk away from these discussions because they seem to lead to a lot of vitriol. I realize that with advanced training techniques and food preparation, modern fighters have an edge over their counterparts 100 years ago. However, I also feel yesterday’s heroes came from tough times and there were many other fighters who had to overcome to get to the top.
Looking at who was the best among the British, I would say that Ted Kid Lewis was our best fighter, Ken Buchanan, our best boxer, Lennox Lewis, the man who has achieved the most, against the best, in the modern era, and if one is looking for the fighter Even more exciting, look no further than Nigel Benn. It was probably the best of the bunch Jimmy Wilde.
Wilde consistently ranks high on these lists, although I doubt there are many younger fans, who are not particularly interested in the history of old episodes, who wonder why. Wilde is often claimed to have fought 600 professional fights. This is clearly incorrect. He was a stall fighter, so he would have crossed gloves with at least 600 men, but most of those weren’t professional boxers. His detailed professional record is not entirely clear and there are many different versions of it. Some contain inaccurate information and others rule out some important seizures, including loss. He has had over 100 competitions and won the vast majority of them within the distance. He could hit a man with one of his hands. Not for nothing he was known as “the ghost with a hammer in his hand”.
He often weighed significantly less than his opponents, although, throughout his career, he competed in the lightest division. When he beat American Johnny Rosner in 1916 in the World Flyweight Competition, he weighed 7 pounds, 2 pounds (100 pounds). He knocked out future British bantamweight champion Tommy Noble in 1916 when he ceded between 18 and 20 pounds, while Wilde took a close verdict against future bantamweight world champion Joe Lynch in 1919, when he was fighting at 14 pounds. One of his most notable achievements was giving Joe Kuhn about two stones (28 pounds) in weight and four inches in height in 1918, and awarded him comprehensively before stopping Londoner in 12 rounds.
Kuhn was the featherweight at the highest level at the time and in his next match he met Tanse Lee for the British title and lasted until round 17. Before the Wilde competition, he had won 12 in a jog and among his victims were three men who simultaneously held a British title – Mr. Smith Tommy Noble and Curly Walker. He also beat Welsh Feathers Danny Morgan and Idris Jones on a timeline and both men were of the highest levels.
The idea to match Wilde with Conn came from promoter Jack Callaghan. The show took place at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea FC. It was not a natural match, and I suspect it was carefully invented to allow Wilde to show a large audience in London just how versatile he was in his ability to outrun a heavier man.
I have some excellent fighting pics – one of them is reproduced here. Just look at the difference in size. Also consider Kuhn’s face after being hit by Wilde’s left hook. Body language is revealing, too. Wilde looks like an assailant, with Cosmos being conservative. The greatest British fighter ever? It’s wild to me.