Boxing is in the blood in South Wales. The machismo ingrained in an industrial society has given birth to generations of young men who have traditionally settled arguments by unarmed combat.
Supremacy with the fists earned a fighter respect from his fellow men, admiration from women and - for the very best - the possibility of wealth, fame and an escape from the drudgery of the coal mine or the steel works.
When the black gold was discovered beneath the hills in the early nineteenth century, it sparked a population explosion. Farm labourers, previously struggling for survival in rural Wales and the south-west of England, flocked to the Valleys to work down the pits. Towns sprang up where there had been open moorland and ribbons of terraced houses began to line the banks of the rivers as they made their way south.
The coal had to be transported to the sea. Railways and canals were built, in many cases by Irishmen who added their own love of a scrap to the developing culture of a new community.
And on the coast, once-quiet fishing villages - including the present-day capital, Cardiff - expanded into flourishing and busy seaports. From across the oceans came Africans, West Indians and others whose sons provided another element to the racial mix.
Even amid the decline of those heavy industries in the past three decades, that love of a fair fight has survived. There may be fewer boxers than in the peak years between the wars, but those who excel in the square ring still rank alongside rugby players and footballers in the pantheon of Welsh sporting idols.
And, at a grass roots level, youngsters still queue to be taught the basic skills of the Noble Art, dreaming that they too will one day stand in the spotlight, wearing a champion’s belt.
[Gareth Jones, Boxing News]