Today marks the 50th year anniversary of Howard Winstone’s world title triumph, fulfilling a lifelong dream that at times looked like it would never happen.
One of Merthyr’s biggest exports had lost his three earlier attempts at world level, losing out to Vicente Salvidar (Pts, Earls Court; Pts, Ninian Park, TKO in Mexico City).
Salvidar one of the featherweight greats announced his retirement shortly afterwards, meaning the title became vacant.
Fourth time lucky? The title would be contested between Winstone and Japan’s Mitsunori Seki at London’s historic Royal Albert Hall.
Seki shared the frustration felt of Winstone, he like the Welshman had come up short against the same foe in Salvidar in his previous two world title challenges.
The scene was set for a tough night for both men, one would on this occasion barring a draw, become a world champion for the first time, but which, as the boxing community was split in their opinion.
The night would ultimately belong to the 28-Year-Old Welshman, Winstone used every bit of his ring craft to outbox Seki on route to a ninth round stoppage due to a nasty cut suffered.
Winstone looked tentatively early on allowing Seki to land with hard shots that jolted the Welshman back, the trend continued as the Winstone of old was nowhere to be seen, the fleet-footedness had temporarily abandoned him early in the contest.
Both men were cut early, Winstone’s corner led by Eddie Thomas did a better job at patching their man up but in waves the Japanese fighter would aggressively assert himself, bringing the corner of Winstone to yell “Box him Howie”
It served its purpose as the jab, jab, right cross came into effect, Winstone now correcting the error of his ways started to take command of the contest, The stronger man, Seki knew he needed something big to turn the tide of the contest, upped the intensity in the 6th and 7th but it wasn’t enough to deter Winstone’s jab which was now acting to further enhance the damage to the cut.
It was at this point in the ninth that referee Roland Dakin seen fit to send Seki to his corner to tend to the cut before a rousing cheer was heard from around the hall, crowning a new world champion, much to the amazement of the Seki corner.
Seki protested the premature ending which on reflection should have been given more time as it would in this era, both men were robbed of a great ending, Winstone at the time of stoppage was ahead, looking to record a decision win whilst Seki was certainly still in the contest, it meant an anti-climax for the neutral.
Still, to this day the achievement is met with a broad smile from the indulgent portrayer of the story, The small mining town of Merthyr Tydfil in the South Wales Valley holds a notoriety of being a fighting town to which Winstone’s name is revered within the sport of boxing, the two are synonymous with one another.
Today we fondly look back, especially from myself being a Welshman, as one of my town’s greatest captured the title in a significant era of the featherweight division.