1913-01-27 (126lbs) Jim Driscoll drew 20 Owen Moran, NSC, Covent Garden, London, England

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1913-01-27 (126lbs) Jim Driscoll drew 20 Owen Moran, NSC, Covent Garden, London, England. Referee: J. H. Douglas. Defending his British, European and world 126lb title claims, Driscoll appeared to have got the rough end of the deal when the decision was announced as a draw. Boxing, the trade paper, claimed that Driscoll won at least ten of the rounds by big margins, Moran just two (the 11th and 20th), with the remainder being more or less even. While there were no knockdowns and Driscoll was not the man he once was, he had used both hands as well as could be expected in the light of Moran targeting the body which led to much holding. Right from the opening bell Moran had decided on this tactic, believing that he could bring the older man down by this method, but even then he came off decidedly second best as far as the paper was concerned. While Driscoll thought he had won well, Moran said that he was happy to be judged as the Welshman’s equal.

When Driscoll retired in July and because Johnny Kilbane, the American champion, only recognised 122lbs as being the championship weight, it is fair to say that the best men in the world at 126lbs at that time were in Britain, Europe and the British Empire. Therefore, because of that, I have recorded the British, Imperial and European title fights at 126lbs which eventually led to Eugene Criqui of France unifying the championship at that weight in 1923, despite being unable to find world title tags attached. However, due to the Great War raging in Europe there were obviously things more pressing than trying to claim world titles.

Meanwhile, although Moran was claiming to be the successor to Driscoll by dint of his draw, it would be Ted Kid Lewis, not yet 19, who met Alec Lambert at the NSC on 6 October to decide the British title. Having won by a 17th-round stoppage, there were many in Britain who recognised Lewis as the best man in Europe as well and he was matched on 2 February 1914 against the Frenchman, Paul Til, at Premierland, Whitechapel, London, for the European title. Once again Lewis looked the part, winning on a 12th-round disqualification, but after a few more fights he tried his luck in Australia where he was soon up among the lightweights. Then, having decided to move on to America where he would initially concentrate on winning the world 135lbs title, he officially relinquished the British championship in August 1914. He had already been stripped of the European version by the French Federation Society of Boxing (FFSB) on 4 April 1914, the day France’s Louis De Ponthieu was due to meet England’s Joe Starmer at Wonderland, Paris, France. Billed for the FFSB version of the vacant European 126lbs title, Starmer, who was still upright but way behind on points, was disqualified in the 14th round for feigning a low blow, leaving De Ponthieu the winner.

The next big fight at 126lbs came on 31 May 1915 when Llew Edwards beat Moran on a tenth-round disqualification at the NSC for the vacant British title. Following that, on 18 December 1915 at The Stadium, Sydney, Australia, Edwards forced Jimmy Hill to retire inside 13 rounds of a battle for the vacant Imperial British Empire 126lbs title, before losing the belt to another Australian, Charlie Simpson on points over 20 rounds at West Melbourne Stadium, Melbourne, Australia on 23 January 1916. Simpson took over the Imperial 126lbs title on his victory, but almost immediately was fighting in a higher weight division.

Following Edwards’ abdication of the British title it was won by Charlie Hardcastle, who beat Alf Wye by a first-round count out at the NSC on 4 June 1917, before he was knocked out in the fourth round by Tancy Lee at the NSC on 5 November 1917. Lee then successfully defended the belt against Joe Conn and Danny Morgan. After knocking out Conn inside seven rounds at the NSC on 21 October 1918 and outpointing Morgan over 20 rounds at the same venue on 24 February 1919, Lee went on to meet De Ponthieu to decide the 126lbs IBU title at The Circus, Paris on 24 December 1919. Although De Ponthieu won on a 17th-round kayo, he was forced to abdicate at the end of January 1920 after his left arm was amputated due to a severe case of blood poisoning.

The vacant IBU title was decided when Belgium’s Arthur Wyns forced the British champion, Mike Honeyman, to retire inside ten rounds at the Ice Rink, Holland Park, London on 31 May 1920. In defence of the title, Wyns defeated two more Englishmen, Conn (w rtd 14 at The Ring, Southwark, London on 26 July 1920) and Ben Callicott (w co 17 on 5 December 1921 at The Ring), before losing it to the Frenchman, Eugene Criqui (l co 12 on 7 July 1922 at The Circus, Paris).

Famous as a war veteran, having had surgery for a shattered jaw, Criqui successfully defended the European belt twice at the Winter Velodrome, Paris in 1922, when forcing Wyns to retire after six rounds on 9 September and England’s Billy Matthews to do likewise after 17 sessions on 2 December, prior to sailing for the USA.