Cox's Corner Profiles

Jimmy Wilde, The Mighty Atom…“A Mite Of A Man”

By: Monte D. Cox

Jimmy Wilde was boxing’s first and greatest Flyweight champion. The National Sporting Club established the flyweight class in Britain in 1909, but American recognition of the division did not come until 1916 the year Wilde won the title. His reign as 112- pound champion ran from 1916 to 1923. His record of going unbeaten in his first 98 fights will probably stand forever. Wilde is the hardest pound for pound hitter in boxing history scoring almost 100 knockouts despite weighing barely over 100 pounds. He would fight almost anyone irregardless of weight. His official record is 130-3-1 11 ND's 99 kayo’s.

Jimmy Wilde, like Bob Fitzsimmons and the original Joe Walcott, has been described as something of a physical freak. He stood 5 2 ½”, had a 68” reach and never weighed more than 108 pounds but possessed the power of a lightweight. Modern Strawweights, Junior Flyweights and Flyweights cannot compare to his ability since he held the 112 pound title and knocked out men almost twice his weight.

Bob Mee, stated, "Jimmy Wilde cut a pale, waif like figure, and conceded weight even to flyweights. He was fast and extremely difficult to hit and had a repertoire of precise, stinging punches that accounted for 99 of his official 145 opponents inside the distance."

McCallum wrote in his Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions "Jimmy's appearance was bellying, for he punched harder, with incredible speed and accuracy than most lightweights. He was not at all intimidated by bigger men."

He was taught to fight by future father-in-law, the legendary mountain fighter Dai Davies, while working in the mines of Wales. At 16, he began exhibiting in the boxing booth of Jack Scarrott, where he appeared from 1909 to 1914 in an estimated 500 fights according to Tracy Callis. In boxing booths little Wilde knocked out rugged muscular miners weighing as much as 170 or more pounds.

Historian Gilbert Odd, wrote of Wilde in Encyclopedia of Boxing “He was a completely unorthodox fighter, with a persistent attacking style, carrying his gloves on a level with his hips. Weaving and bobbing as he came in, he would trap an opponent against the ropes or in a corner and then let loose a stream of shock punches.”

R.A. Haldane stated, Champions and Challengers"His speed, timing, power of punch and technique, coupled with his tremendous fighting heart and courage were never doubted. His most unusual asset was what has been described as a sixth sense, the ability to anticipate his opponent's next move and beat him to it."

British sportswriter R.B Cozens said, Ring Jan. 1941, “Wilde’s strength and hitting power considering his size was simply amazing. He was a highly skilled boxer and his power of punches was almost magical. Wilde always believed in avoiding tactics that would reduce his stamina, hence instead of blocking the blows of his opponents, he had a knack of sidestepping an inch or two when the delivery was made and invariably got out of their range. His sense of distance was uncanny. He could stand in range of a blow when it started but when an opponent let it loose a little jerk of his head and the punch landed in space.”

“Always on his toes, his body executing a wavelike motion, his gloves resting on his hips without a semblance of a guard, his knees slightly bent, he proved a bewildering subject for an opponent. He always kept his man guessing, feinted him into knots and then connected with his terrific right, said to be the heaviest punch ever delivered by a fellow of his weight. These are the qualities which Jimmy Wilde possessed and which enabled him to take his rank among the truly great-the Supermen."

Hype Igoe stated, NY World July 18, 1923, “A mite of a man, winning his title when he weighed only 98 pounds, Jimmy Wilde has deserved all the praise heaped upon him in the way of idolatry. No English fighter has come close to matching his record from the days of Tom Figg until now. Few men of his size have ever stood up to his walloping.”

Wilde fought and defeated every flyweight and bantamweight of note in Great Britain. Examining his record one sees that he fought really good fighters. Young Jennings (ex Flyweight champion), Joe Symonds (ex bantamweight champion), Johnny Hughes (ex bantamweight champ) Sid Smith (ex Flyweight champion), Tancy Lee (Flyweight champion), Tommy Noble (ex bantamweight champion and well known in America) and men such as Bouzini, Mansfield, and Cullen who were all top flyweights.

He knocked out the tough black American flyweight Young Zulu Kid in 11 rounds to cement his claim as champion in 1916. He beat all the best bantamweights as well as top British featherweight Joe Conn. Conn, who a class 126-pounder, was floored 6 times in round 10 and knocked out in the 12th.

In 1919 Wilde went on an American tour going undefeated in 12 fights that included two sensational wins over highly regarded American bantamweights, Joe Lynch and Pal Moore. Returning to Britain in 1920 he virtually retired from the ring as a conquering hero.

He did fight again and lost in 1921 to Pete Herman, one of the great bantamweights of all time, who outweighed him by 19 pounds. Herman came in overweight and scaled as much as a featherweight. Wilde was game and lasted until the 17th round. His last fight after a two year absence from the ring was against hard-hitting Pancho Villa who took his Flyweight title in 1923. Wilde died in Cardiff, Wales in 1969 at age 77.

Perhaps he is best remembered by the words of former heavyweight champion Gene Tunney who said simply, “Jimmy was the greatest fighter I ever saw.”

Both Nat Fleischer and Charley Rose rate Jimmy Wilde as the # 1 all time Flyweight. Herbert Goldman also rated Wilde # 1 in 1987. Cox’s Corner considers him as the # 1 Flyweight of all time.

Jimmy Wilde vs Joe Symonds, 1916 Video