100 years on: How Jimmy Wilde conquered the world

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Jimmy Wilde, for many Britain's best ever boxer, first became world champion on this day [Dec. 18] 100 years ago.

The little Welshman, who was just 5-foot-3 tall, was known as the 'The Mighty Atom' and 'The Ghost with the Hammer in his Hand'.

Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, the son of a coal miner, Wilde was sent to work in the pits from a young age. But he escaped a life underground when he started to box aged 16 in fairground booths.

He turned professional later in his teens and went 93-0-1 before he lost his unbeaten record. He totalled 136 bouts, though it was probably far more, with just three recorded defeats.

Wilde served as a sergeant PT instructor based at Aldershot during the First World War and in 1916 he put together a string of significant wins.

Wilde had claimed a version of the world title when he stopped Joe Symonds earlier in 1916 and also had victories over Sid Smith and Tancy Lee, who he knocked out for the European title.

But he was not recognised as the undisputed flyweight champion until he halted his Italian-American opponent the 'Young Zulu Kid' -- whose real name was Frankie di Melfi -- in the 11th round at Holborn Stadium.

Wilde hurt Kid with a left to the jaw and the American sunk to one knee after taking a pummelling on the ropes. Wilde seized his chance with more heavy blows and when Kid went down again the American's corner threw in the towel.

Despite looking frail and with long, skinny limbs, Wilde was a fearsome champion. By the time he climbed into the ring to face Young Zulu Kid -- also known as 'Fighting Newsboy' -- he had suffered only one defeat to Tancy Lee, which Wilde avenged in June 1916.

The world flyweight champion toured America from December 1919 with 11 bouts in six months. Wilde held on to his world title until 1923, when he lost it to Filipino Pancho Villa in New York. After the seventh round knockout defeat, Wilde announced his retirement.

Wilde died aged 76 in 1969, after being mugged a few years earlier at Cardiff railway station.