I WAS sorry to hear about the death of Ron “Ponty” Davies of Llanbradach, South Wales. Ron was an extremely talented amateur who had a brief but successful professional career in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Like so many before him, Ron was brought up within the South Wales coalfield and took to boxing as a young boy. He had a terrific season as a 17-year-old in 1955 when he became the Welsh senior champion at the first attempt, as well as winning on both occasions that he represented his native country in matches against the Army and England. Both of these victories came inside the distance. Sapper Alex Ambrose was stopped in two rounds in Bristol, while Derek Lloyd of Chingford, the reigning ABA flyweight champion, lasted a round longer in Cardiff, before being stopped on a cut eye. At the time, young Ron was being compared favourably with Dai Dower, who only a few years previously was Wales’ outstanding amateur flyweight.
In 1956, Davies was called up for national service, where he became a private in 1 Welch Regiment. That same year, he came a cropper himself, due to a cut eye, when being stopped in a round by future world champion Johnny Caldwell in an international against Ireland. However, he reached the pinnacle of the domestic amateur game the following year when he became the ABA champion.
His run started with victories in the Army Championships and then the Inter Services Championships, when he beat both the Royal Navy and RAF champions. This took him to the ABA semi-finals and, after two more wins, against Albert Jones (Wilmot-Breden) and Lewie Mackay (Leith Persevere), he won the much-coveted title at the age of 19. He was an automatic choice for Wales in that year’s European Championships and he exceeded expectations by returning home a beaten semi-finalist. He defeated a Hungarian and a Czech, before losing to the eventual gold medallist, Manfred Homberg of West Germany.
Much was expected of Ponty when he turned professional immediately upon his return from the Europeans in Prague. He hitched up with manager Benny Jacobs of Cardiff and was trained by Ernie Hurford. At the time, Jacobs’ stable included Joe Erskine, Phil Edwards and Darkie Hughes, and Davies did not look out of place within such exalted company. He hammered Barry Adgie on his debut in Abergavenny, before chalking up four more inside-the-distance victories within his first year as a pro. This propelled him to a British top 10 ranking, and he was being touted as a prospective champion.
In 1960, Davies beat Rotherham’s Eddie Barraclough in Merthyr and was then matched against Frankie Jones of Plean. At the time, Jones was the British flyweight champion and in agreeing to a 10-round non-title contest against the up-and-coming Welshman, he was taking a big risk. BN reported before the bout that should Davies prove victorious then he would be matched for the world title. The fast-track seemed to be the one that Jacobs sought for his young protégé.
In front of 7,000 people at the Ynys Stadium in Aberdare, Davies delighted his fans by punching out a decision in an extremely hard and fast-paced fight. Following on with a routine win against Pancho Bhattachaji, Davies then looked to further cement his status with a victory over Derek Lloyd, a previous amateur victim, on the Terry Downes-Joey Giardello undercard in Wembley. Yet Davies was forced to pull out of the contest for what BN described as “personal reasons”, and that was that for the young Welshman. He never boxed again, although he stayed involved in the amateur game, assisting his friend and fellow ex-professional, Don Braithwaite.
His brother-in-law, Stephen Dean, phoned me last week to say that Ron was an extremely proud Welshman and an exceptionally dedicated family man. He will be much missed up and down the valleys of his native land.