In Merthyr Tydfil shopping precinct there is a statue of a boxing legend. His name was Howard Winstone and in January 1968 he won the WBC World featherweight title.
Howard Winstone was born in Merthyr Tydfil on the 15th of April 1939
He lost the ends of his right hand during an accident in a toy factory where he worked which changed his boxing style from straightÂ right to straightÂ left.
Howard fought 86 amateur fights and won 83 of them which, coming from a hard fighting town Like Merthyr Tydfil, is quite some accomplishment and in 1958 won Gold medal for Bantamweight at The British EmpireÂ and Commonwealth Games which were held in Cardiff.
So Howard Turned pro and, with fellow MerthyrÂ Boxer the former European welterweight champion the legendaryÂ Eddie Thomas (Right in picture) behind him, he started training a in a vigorous and cruel training regime that most fighters today would not be able to deal with due to the extra rounds involved in order to reach his one goal, to be champion of the world.
He fought Terry Spinks in 1961 and took his tittle as British featherweight champion after winning all of his 24 fights beforehand.
But in 1962 he faced his first defeat against Leroy Jeffery from America but went on to defend his title against homegrown boxers and then in 1963 he fought Alberto Serti for the European featherweight titleÂ in Cardiff.
In 1964 he faced his second defeat by another American called Don Johnson (I will never be able to watch those re-runs of Miami Vice Again) but managed to defend his European title against other would be champions.
Then in 1965 he had is first pop at the world title against Mexican Vicente Saldivar which he lost narrowly even though many thought he should have won the match.
1967 saw a rematch against Vicente Saldivar in Cardiff which he lost by half a point and many were in uproar after the fight because they felt Winstone had clearly won the match….a sentiment that Howard shared.
Four months later that year he went for a third match against Saldivar this time at altitude in Mexico city and was knocked down in 3 rounds…needless to say he lost that match. After the Match against Winstone, Saldivar announced his retirement from professional boxing and the title was left open.
So in 1968 at the Royal Albert hall a match was arranged by the two most likely candidates for world featherweight champion. Howard Winstone Vs Mitsunori Seki.
Which Howard won.
Howard was now World Featherweight champion and he was at the top of his game..then in 1969 he lost his new title in his next match to Jose Legra from Cuba and Howard at the young age of 29 decided toÂ retire from professional fighting.
I was lucky enough to meet Howard and drank with him on many an occasion…in an interview you will find on You Tube he says "I am just one of the boys" and he was…..I found him a very lighthearted genuine and humble man and in his hometown of Merthyr Tydfil he was very much loved by all.
One favorite memory I have of Howard goes back to the night after a party for a friend of mine and let's just say we hadn't been to bed because the drink we had contained certain things that make you hallucinate….Some friends of mine and myself went to the local pub in quite a psychedelic frame of mind and two of us were dressed as Wizards and the other two of us had dresses on (which one I was I will leave to your imagination).
We walked into the Church Tavern Inn and sitting by the fire was Howard having a pint. He took one look at us and walked out. Then walked back in and walked back out, finally he can back in and said "There's something wrong with you lot" and burst into laughter. A fine afternoon was then spent with a world boxing legend and thoroughly nice chap.
Another Welsh person competing in 1958 for a title at the Empire Games in Cardiff was Miss Gillian Rees of Ystrad Mynach who won the beauty competition after becoming Miss Wales, Miss Great Britain then fought off the competition from the rest of the commonwealth to become the winner of Miss Commonwealth Games 1958. You may be asking why I am adding her to this article….well she is my mother, so had to give her a mention when the Empire Games are highlighted.