Boxing News reader Norman Allen-Jones penned the below letter in response to an article that appeared in that paper on 27 June 1951, in which contributor Bill Evans had written the following about the secret of Wilde’s phenomenal punch:
‘Speed plus timing did the trick. Of course, he was unorthodox. He could bring across a punch from an unexpected angle and take an opponent unawares. For this reason he was neither a good coach nor a good example to the young – in a boxing sense only, I mean! He could show you just how he punched, but he alone could punch that way. Boys who watched him and tried to fight on the same pattern were wasting their time… I dislike the word “freak” applied to people like the Tylorstown Terror. He wasn’t that at all – just a genius.’
With all diffidence I am forced to disagree somewhat with your gifted contributor, Bill Evans, as to the source of Jimmy Wilde’s phenomenal punching.
Wilde always gave me the impression that he had an awl protruding between his knuckles and that he was trying to punch it as deeply into a lump of wood as possible.
I think that idea was engendered by the fact that it was only on contact that his whole body from the toes upwards was put into the blow, as if his gloves were bombs that exploded only on contact.
Again, I am at variance with Mr Evans on the question of speed. Jimmy definitely did not speed, except with eye and brain. Jimmy moved slowly and flatfootedly. No springiness and no hurry.
All he did with his toes was to carry them about to help his heels to maintain firm balance of stance; a stance, by the way, which he rarely maintained throughout a round. Soon you’d see him walking left, right, left foot, after his man, pushing his closed gloves against his thighs as he walked.
I saw him first in 1913. He had ducked very low – to his right side – and his opponent sent a left over his shoulder – seemingly to justify Jimmy’s ducking. A friend said to me, ‘Now watch two uppercuts.” “Uppercuts!” said I, scornfully. “Where from?” There was plenty of time to say all that, Jimmy, meanwhile keeping to his doubled up position and glancing quizzically upwards at his opponent. Then they came, a left and a right neck stretch under the chin, while Jimmy was still ‘in two doubles’ underneath.
Where the power of those strokes came from I still cannot understand. I know Jimmy says his blows, of all kinds, always landed with an upward jerk, as, he says, he could lift more than he could weigh.
The remarkable thing was that I and, I presume, all spectators, felt one could do just as well as Jimmy oneself. He made it look so easy and so natural.
Jimmy could not show you how it was done except in actual combat.
I have seen him try to show people, and seen him try clown-boxing, and he only managed to look ineffably silly.
As to being a freak, well, his collar-bones jutted out so that you could grab them. Still his straight collier’s back gave the impression of great strength and durability.
Genius? Mr Evans. Yes, you are right there, sir. How right you are!
Some people have compared him with Jim Driscoll: so inept a comparison that it leaves me dumb.
To adopt Lord Dunsany: All great boxers are incomparable.
– Norman Allen-Jones (BA), Llwynypia, Glamorgan.