AMMAN VALLEY AMATEUR BOXING CLUB
Continuity is a fragile commodity in life; rarely found, it can't be taken for granted when it is. It's the same for many of our institutions, which are assailed from all sides with forces of change, and nothing is more disruptive to the smooth running of society than war. Many organisations in the Amman valley have had their activities discontinued by the twentieth century's two world wars, usually causing them to disband during hostilities and restart only when the slaughter stopped. Ammanford Rugby Club was founded in 1887 but had to disband between 1914 and 1918 when the forces of the state deemed it more important that healthy young football players should be blown to pieces on the killing fields of France than chase a leather ball in relatively harmless pursuit. The club had disbanded for the first time between 1904 and 1907, but religion this time, not war, was the cause. The 1904 religious revival which swept Wales had such an effect in Ammanford that all sporting activities ceased for the duration, and Ammanford rugby club closed down until the 1907 season, many players having burnt their jerseys and boots in a demonstration of their commitment. During the Second World War all rugby ceased again, with only youth matches being played.
The Amman Valley and District Choral Society was founded in 1917 but singing had to stop for the same reasons during the war-torn years between 1939 and 1945 and voices were raised in song again, rather than anger, only in 1947.
Boxing is another case in point, when pre-war amateur boxing in the valley had to stop for the duration of the Great War (World War One) and wait until after the war to resume. Founded in 1920 in Glanamman, Amman Valley Amateur Boxing Club ceased its activities again when World War Two sent its young men off to fight with guns instead of gloves. When the club re-formed, its home moved three miles down the valley to Ammanford and it operated initially under the name of Pullman's Boxing Club before reclaiming Amman Valley Boxing Club in 1955. Here is the story of the valley's boxing club, once the most successful amateur club in Wales.
A GOLDEN DECADE OF AMMAN VALLEY BOXING
When Mervyn Williams, a boxer from Taibach near Port Talbot, came to Cwmaman and founded a school of boxing he could not have realised that his Amman Valley Boxing Club would become probably the most successful Welsh amateur boxing club of all time.
During the next decade the club gained no less than 18 Welsh titles, produced a European title holder and the first Welsh heavyweight champion ever to hold the British amateur title.
When Mervyn Williams founded the club in 1920, along with his brothers Alun and Ellis, and Arthur Jones as secretary, it was a time of change in the amateur boxing world.
When the Great War broke out in 1914, the amateur boxing championships were discontinued and they were not restarted until 1920.
This was after discussions took place which eventually led to the addition of light-heavyweight, welterweight and flyweight divisions to the original five pre-war divisions of heavyweight, middleweight, lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight.
The club was founded on the crest of Mervyn Williams's personal wave of success, for it was in 1920 that he realised a cherished ambition by winning the Welsh featherweight title.
As the news spread that Cwmaman sported a Welsh champion, many aspiring boxers turned up at the Amman Hotel where training started on three nights a week under the watchful eye of Bill Thomas, the appointed trainer.
The interests of the club were guided by Cardiff schoolteacher Tom Morris who was a member of the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association Council.
Mervyn Williams, who started boxing in the army, went on to further his boxing career by successfully defending his Welsh title in 1921. But this time he was joined by a fellow member of the infant club, Ike Lloyd, who became the new Welsh lightweight champion.
The following great year saw two more Amman Valley champions: Mervyn Jones won the Welsh bantamweight title and Tom Evans produced a roar of acclaim in the Valley when he won the ABA British heavy weight title — the first Welshman ever to do so.
In the same year both Mervyn Williams and Ike Lloyd retained their Welsh titles.
With eight divisions now being contested and boxing standards rising fast, the competition in the twenties had become fierce. In 1923, Amman Valley's Tommy Stamp rose above the standards when he won the newly-created Welsh flyweight title.
His boxing days were tragically cut short in July 1925 when he was killed in a mining accident.
His brother Gil, of Heol Wallasey, recalled their mother making a cushion cover of Tommy's red Welsh vest as a mark of respect for her son.
The year that Tommy Stamp won the Welsh flyweight title, 1923, was also successful for Tom Evans (who was to captain Neath Rugby Football Club) when he became Welsh heavyweight champion.
And Mervyn Williams found himself Welsh featherweight champion for the fourth successive year.
In 1924, the famous name of Archie Rule appears in the club's records. He won the Welsh bantamweight title, while Ike Lloyd recaptured the lightweight title.
Amman Valley Boxing Club 1924 with a magnificent collection of trophies won in just four years of existence. Front left is Archie Rule wearing his British vest. Rule was Welsh bantamweight champion in 1923, 1924 and 1925 and European champion 1923. Crad Rule (far left, middle row) is wearing his brother's Welsh vest. One British and three Welsh vests are being proudly worn for the camera.
After an absence of a year, the Welsh featherweight title again became the property of Mervyn Williams in 1925.
Police Constable Jack Rees became the sixth boxer to win a Welsh title for the club, the welterweight championship.
Archie Rule, having successfully defended his Welsh bantamweight crown, was selected to box for the European Games and brought home the European title from Stockholm.
He completed the hat-trick in 1926 when he again successfully defended his Welsh title.
1927 saw Danny Evans, brother of Tom, win the Welsh welterweight title.
Two years later, Danny turned professional and went on to become both welterweight and middle weight champion of Wales.
In 1928, for the first year since its inception, no titles were won by the Amman Valley Boxing Club.
But to complete the amazing first decade in 1929, Ike Lloyd had his hand raised as Welsh lightweight champion for the fourth time.POST-WAR YEARS: END OF AN ERA AS GYM BURNS DOWN
A sporting link with the past went up when Amman Valley Boxing Club's gymnasium on Ammanford Recreation Field was gutted by fire in 1984.
Although the wooden gymnasium had been disused for some time, the fire brought an end to one of the finest clubs in Welsh Amateur Boxing.
It was founded in 1946 as the Pullman Boxing Club and its first home was the canteen in the Pullman factory.
In 1955, because of the need for increased accommodation for meals in the factory canteen, the club was obliged to find alternative premises.
Good luck came their way when Mr John Jones, landlord of the New Inn, Quay Street, provided them, free of charge, with a room above the old stable at the rear of the Inn. It was at this point that the club adopted the name of the Amman Valley Boxing Club.
In doing so they gave themselves a great deal to live up to as the name had previously belonged to the fine club started in 1920 by Mervyn Williams at Glanaman.
Simply the Best: Amman Valley Boxing Club were the best in Wales in 1956. Pictured are (back row, left to right): Ron Davies, Olgam Bowen, Rufus Price, Johnny Smith, Sered (Spio) Thomas. Front Row: Danny Caulfield, Cliff Peregrine, Haydn Evans and Ron Lewis (seated on the floor). Rufus Price, who later turned professional, is the father of Ammanford's Member of Parliament, Adam Price MP. The shield on the left is the Western Mail Best Club in Wales Award for 1956. The right-hand shield is the Wilf Humphries light-heavyweight shield awarded to Olgam Bowen (second left, top row) while various cups are strewn on the floor. Olgam Bowen and Rufus Price are wearing their Welsh international vests.
The founding president of the new club was D. J. Herbert. Other founder members were Cliff and Gwyn Peregrine, Bertie Davies and Sered (Spio) Thomas.
Successful early boxers included Ken and Gerallt James; Martin and Keith Edwards; Rufus Price and Olgam Bowen. The five sons of Sered Thomas also featured prominently in the club: Clive, Terry, Jimmy, Mike and Peter.
Clive Thomas, on becoming a British Schoolboy champion, was presented with his prize at the Albert Hall by Field Marshal Montgomery.
Ammanford Urban District Council presented the club in 1960 with a plaque bearing the town coat of arms and an inscription: “In recognition of valuable service rendered by the club in fostering amateur boxing in the Amman Valley”.
The club was the first in Wales to entertain a foreign club: Kolscheid Amateur Boxing Club in 1953. Aachen club visited them in 1962, and the Amman Valley Club travelled to Germany to return the visits of both clubs.
In 1965, the National Coal Board provided the club with two large sheds and these were converted to the gymnasium which stood on the Recreation Field in Ammanford. The gym was officially opened on November 1, 1965, by Councillor T. C. Bevans.
In his speech on that occasion club chairman Bertie Davies pointed out that the club had produced 11 Welsh internationals and 18 Welsh champions. “In all we have 28 boxers who have held one title or another', be said.
During 1966, preparing to fight for the vacant European welterweight title, professional Brian Curvis used the club's facilities to do some training.
Brian, who already held the British and Commonwealth titles, will long be remembered for his epic world-title battle with the brilliant Emile Griffith in 1964, which he lost on points.
Of the gym, Curvis remarked that it was not palatial: “But what it was constituted a real and lasting tribute to a few men whose love was boxing and only boxing'." He later presented the club with a new punch bag.
By the early 1970s, Cliff Peregrine's sons, Malcolm and Keith, had become the youngest boxing referees in the country.
Among many charity shows given by the dub at Ammanford, Llanelli, Carmarthen, Tenby and other places, was a successful enterprise which raised over £1,000 to re-hang the church bells in a Monmouth church. This event was organised in conjunction with Mr Lindsay James, who was a native of Ammanford.
Altogether, Amman Valley Boxing Club probably organised around 300 tournaments, and had been justly praised by Amateur Boxing Association officials, police and probation officers and numerous social and religious organisations for the service it offered the youth of the district.
Trainer Cliff Peregrine was honoured many tunes during his career and by the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association appointing him trainer to the Welsh team, and in 1958 he became the only person from Ammanford to be picked as an official for the Empire Games held in Cardiff.
In 1980, the Welfare Club in Ammanford started a rival gym, and Towy Boxing Club from Llandeilo were on the crest of a wave at this time, producing three senior Welsh champions. Sadly, the loser was the Amman Valley Boxing Club, which finally closed as the trainees dwindled away.
[This article was published in the South Wales Guardian on October 28th 1993. It is reproduced here by the kind permission of the author, Tony Lee, of Ammanford.]BOXING IN THE AMMAN VALLEY TODAY
Towy Amateur Boxing Club
Although no boxing club carries the name Amman Valley Boxing Club any more there are in fact two amateur boxing clubs operating in the area. The Towy Amateur Boxing Club, originally from Llandeilo, has since made its home in Ammanford. It moved to a custom-built gym on Ammanford recreation ground in 2005 after the dilapidated and dangerous grandstand belonging to Ammanford RFC was demolished in 2004. Towy Boxing Club was formed in Llandeilo County Primary School in the 1960s and has been in continuous operation since, despite leading a rather nomadic existence until settling into their new home on Ammanford recreation ground. Venues have included Llandybie Social Club and between 2000 and 2002 the renovated Ammanford Miners' Hall provided a brief home. A website is in the process of being built which promises to include a history of the club when it's completed.
Cwmgors Amateur Boxing Club
Nearby Gwaun Cae Gurwen is the site of Cwmgors Boxing Club, whose gym is part of the Cwmgors rugby clubhouse. Like Towy Boxing Club, the modern club is on the site of a former landmark, in this case Gwaun Cae Gurwen Workmen's Hall. Built in 1928, the building was the largest miner's hall in the Amman Valley. It was demolished in 1995 and Cwmgors Rugby Club built a clubhouse on the site immediately afterwards. Click on Cwmgors Boxing Club for their website.
BOXING BOOK: ALL IN MY CORNER by Tony Lee
In December 2009 a much-awaited book on the history of boxing in the Amman valley was published which is an invaulable read for the history of the sport in the valley but with much other history included between its covers. All In my Corner, at 310 pages plus index, is researched and written by Ammanford boxing historian and journalist Tony Lee and can be purchased by contacting Tony Lee on (01269) 591145. Price: (paperback) £10.99 plus £2 post and package ); (hardback) £14.99 plus £2.45 post and package.
All In my Corner at 310 pages plus index is a detailed history of boxing and boxers from the Amman valley, researched and written by Ammanford boxing historian and journalist Tony Lee. It can be purchased by contacting Tony Lee on (01269) 591145)
Click for a brief history of Professional Boxing in Ammanford.
Date this page last updated: August 23, 2010