This is the story of how a poor boy of Irish parentage fought his way from the back streets of Cardiff into the hearts of the Welsh nation. eir sport 1, Mon, April 12th 9pm
Known forever as Peerless Jim Driscoll, Driscoll is a boxing legend in Wales, not least because he once gave up the chance of winning a world title because he had promised to take part in a charity show for his local orphanage.
Born in Cardiff on December 15th 1880 to Irish-born parents Cornelius and Elizabeth, Jim fought his way out of poverty. When he died in January 1925, at just 44 years of age, over 100,000 people stood silently on the streets of the Welsh capital to pay their respects as his funeral cortège passed by.
Despite his frail appearance and diminutive size – he was just five feet four inches tall - Driscoll showed tremendous promise from an early age. He fought in fairgrounds and boxing booths to bring in a little extra cash for his family where his skilful technique ensured that he was able to stay out of the way of the big punches and outbox his opponents in the ring.
His reputation grew and he turned professional in 1901, winning his first ten bouts by knockout. That was quite a feat for a featherweight who relied on speed and the ability to land multiple punches in short bursts.
Driscoll’s power and accuracy paid off and he became the first featherweight to win a coveted Lonsdale Belt. In 1910 he set sail for America with his eyes firmly set on winning a world title.
He overcame the initial scepticism of the American press who viewed him as too small and slight to succeed, winning seven of his first nine bouts (the other two being declared ‘no contests’).
World title fight
Driscoll fought Abe Attell for the world title in New York but, despite, dominating the fight over ten rounds, failed to stop his opponent and the fight was declared a ‘no contest’.
He was offered a re-match but declined as he had already pledged to make an appearance at the Nazareth House Orphanage Charity Day in Cardiff. "I never break a promise," he declared.
The chance to fight for the World Championship never came again.
He continued to fight on, but the advent of World War One robbed him of what might potentially have been his best years in the ring.
He joined the army as a physical training instructor and looked to resume his career when the war ended, but he was already past his prime and his health was in decline. He only fought another three times before finally retiring in 1919.
He died of consumption on January 30th 1925 at the age of 44. In a career that lasted 18 years, he finished with 58 wins (39 by KO) and just three losses from 77 bouts - and a place in the hearts of the Welsh nation forever.
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