Thomas David Griffiths 23/6/2005 - 1980

Thomas David Griffiths. Just how I remember him. especially his gold tooth. Born in Alexandra 23/6/1905 to David and Margaret Griffiths. Died in Dunedin 1980 aged 75.

Tommy Griffiths Boxer.

More than 90 years ago Tommy Griffiths was rated one of the cleverest amateur boxers ever devoloped in New Zealand and he went on to chalk up wins against the best professional feather-weights in Australia and New Zealand.

Tommy first became interested in boxing in 1921 when Wally Watt (an Otago amateur champion) took Tommy’s brother Rex and Tommy to Archie Leckie’s gymnasium located above a blacksmiths shop in Moray Place. Tommy was 15 and weighed 6st 7lb.

Throughout his career he was little more than a bantam weight and was always noted for his clever style of boxing. His elusive tactics and ringcraft.He was a good in-fighter and giving away weight sometimes fought on the back-moves most effectively.

His first appearance in competition was made at a novice tournament in the early settlers Hall at which he won each of his bouts. At the same tournament Lachie MacDonald afterwards N.Z  and Australian professional middleweight champion also made a successful debut.

A month later Griffiths entered a fly-weight class at the mid-Canterbury champs where he had 3 fights he won the first 2 and losing the final to Vic Howell of Christchurch. But Tommy made such a good impression that he was presented with the special medal by Mr. J.C.N.Grigg a well known Ashburton racehorse owner. The referee Mr. Billy Page remarked that Griffiths was one of the gamest little boxers ever seen in Ashburton.

He then won     the Otago fly-weight title and was selected to represent Otago ata the N.Z championships at Greymouth but there being no fly-weight division he had to forego the honour.

In 1922 he again delighted the fans by his pretty boxing when he retained his Otago fly-weight title. Competing at the South Island in Timaru Griffiths won 3 contests in one night and annexed the South Island fly-weight championships.  At Auckland the same year he won the N.Z. fly-weight championships out pointing Teddy Stewart his North Island opponent.    After winning the Otago Bantam-weight championship in 1923 Tommy won the South Island bantam-weight title at Ashburton and the N.Z. championship at Dunedin.   Griffiths also represented N.Z. at the Australasian amateur championships at Melbourne and was runner-up in the bantam-weight class. Lachie MacDonald won in the welter-weight class, Charlie Purdy (Auckland) the feather-weight title and Laurie O”Neill  (Greymouth) was beaten in the middle-weight division..

NOTABLE YEAR…  In 1924 at Wellington Griffiths won both the Otago and New Zealand amateur bantam-weight titles.. The following year was a notable one for Tommy Griffiths for in the final of the Otago feather-weight championships he beat Johnny Leckie and in the semi-final of the N.Z. championships he out pointed Tommy Donovan going on to beat Neil Kiely (Greymouth) in the final. Leckie and Donovan afterwards became famed holders of the professional feather-weight titles each with illustrious records. At the end of 1925 Griffiths decided to turn professional and his first professional fight was against Dick Vercoe at Blenheim this ending in a draw. The Australian feather-weight Hector McDonald was Griffiths next opponent and he didn’t give the Dunedin boy much trouble this bout was fought in Timaru. Later at Hastings Tommy beat Duke Maddox then the reigning feather-weight champion from whom Johnny Leckie won the title. However the championship was not at stake. Griffiths chalked up a win in his bout with Mark Carroll at Dunedin and also collected the winners end in his bout with Lewis at Dunedin. Eddie Ross the Australian feather-weight was defeated by Griffiths the referee stopping the bout.

In his next contest in Oamaru Tommy met Harry Gunn former feather-weight champion of New Zealand Gunn winning on points. Griffiths defeated Cyril McCarthy at Auckland and then fought a draw with George Curran who was a very useful feather-weight.  Meeting Roy Overend the game Hasting boxer Griffiths knocked him out in the 10th round, Overends tragic death in hospital sometime later was much regretted though of course there was not the slightest blame attachable to Griffiths who on that occasion fought particularly well.  He followed this up by beating Jimmy Carr at Napier. And on the night that Johnny Leckie made his professional with a knock-out victory over Harry Gunn Dunedin. Tommy Griffiths met Hector Leckie (afterwards professional light-weight champion of NZ) on the same bill Griffiths being the winner on points.  Although both Griffiths and Johnny Leckie were trained by Archie Leckie it was inevitable the pair should meet for Leckies feath-weight title and this bout came off at the Dunedin Drill Hall. Archie Leckie prepared both men for the fight at different sessions in the same gymnasiums.  Johnny and Tommy were closely associated during their respective careers but there were no beg pardens in the ring… Johnny leckie won on points after a well contested and interesting mill.

Looking out of Australia: Tommy Griffiths and Johnny Leckie with their wives. N.Z. Truth 9th May 1929.

Mosquitoes at Work

Visiting Boxers Stung, but Not By Straight Left

According 1 to a letter received this week from Tommy Griffiths none of the party has yet been sold the Domain, or even a gold'clock.

Vf ET, all the same they have been stung, and stung badly by all ac-

counts. The gentleman .who has accomplished the/ walloping has been Buzz Mosquito, an importation which should be called on to pay a poll tax. Scribbleth Tommy: ""We are all well and settled down all right? except for Archie and myself being covered .'Avith lumps from mosquito bites. We are .staying at Balmain, at. an ex-champion featherweight's hotel Tommy Ryan, who has a decision over Sirl tJodfrey, when Godfrey was m his prime. He is a great sport and has fitted up a gymnasium for us. "I suppose some over there would r.emcmber Barney Mullins, who trained some good men m Wellington years ago and who also trained Archie for some of his fights. i He met us at the wharf, and has been very good to us' since we have been here, showing us round. f 'l met Fidel la Barba last Saturday night. He is a great fellow. I never saw a better-looking fellow. "Smith and he fight on Saturday

and then he is going straight back home. ."Johnnie and myself have signed up for three, fights- each; under the Stadium. I meetV'.McAlister". on the 23rd and Johnnie meets Grime on the ■30th. "Johnny was supposed to meet Kid Along, but after Gillespie k.o.'d him at Melbourne, they cut him out." The programme, -.as outlined by Tommy, is working to schedule. Griffiths met and was defeated, by Mc- Alister on Saturday night .-last." This surprised many who saw Griffiths dutspeed Billy at Palmerston on Boxing^ Is T ight. V But, 'listening to the account put over the air, "N.Z. Truth" .could see trouble coming. Griffiths was ultraaggressive and his get-to-work jtactics .sooner or later would give McAlister his chance to 'bring ■..over his right hand. In Palmerston, Tommy boxed g.t long, range, jumping m. and spearing with' ■his straight left, and then getting away again. Tom mentions that La Barba is one good-to-gaze on guy. Tommy should be a judge of beauty for Archie Leckie always holds that he (Archie) is a good looker!

 

The Pace that Kills

Griffiths Sets It And Takes The Big End

(From "N.Z. Truth's" Special Dunedin Representative.) The exhibition staged by Archie Hughes and Tommy Griffiths, at Dunedin, on Saturday night was of the right class to popularise the game.

BOTH boys have a marked similarity m style and there was little between them, but Hughes lost through being unable to see out the pace set by the elusive Dunedin boy. Hughes fought at a quarter of a pound under the limit, and had three pounds advantage of Griffiths. Like many other young- pugilists making .'their maiden voyage away from home, and unattended by a trainer, Hughes put on weight. The hospitality of his Otago friends caused his avoirdupois to rise six pounds m the week between his fight with- Leckie and his latest scrap with Griffiths. Half a stone had to be worked off m three days and this handicap proved sufficient^ to slow Hughes up to a walk over the last two rounds of the fight. Contrary to expectations, he allowed Griffiths to do the leading, and, displaying rare cunning, he refused- to be enticed into Tommy's baulk, but waited his opportunity to scatter his more than useful left over the Dunedin boy's body. Early In the fight he opened Griffiths' left eye and his mouth m two places, but the local boy took it all and continued to lead. He broke through the Sydneysider's cover with greater effectiveness than did Leckie' 1 on the previous Saturday night. His straight left, supplemented with a right cross and delivered with great speed, turned the verdict m his favor.

Hughes indicated early m the piece that he was a better fighter than his form against Leckie suggested. The two boys got quickly to work and gave a delightful exhibition of the skill of infighting, m which they both excelled. It was similar to the close work m the Leckie— Gillesple mill, with Hughes scoring more freely with both hands. x The deceptiveness of Griffiths' stance, however, puzzled the Australian and, despite Hughes' defence, Griffiths peppered his left to the head. It was not untilthe tenth round that Hughes adopted rushing and crowding tactics, and they brought him momentary success. He had the Dunedin boy groggy m this session, and had the chance for a knock, but could not go on with it. Griffiths was well advised from his, corner and was sent out for the eleventh as fresh as a daisy. Fi'om that stage he set a pace which cracked up the Australian. Griffiths did not put the weight behind his punches that Hughes did, but his speed m breaking through the Australian's cover and getting out again gained him the decision by a narrow margin. Hughes has been offered a fight with Mat. Hatton by the Napier Association, and though he has lost his two bouts m Otago, he would make a good match for the Aucklander, as he is a tough, game fighter.

A Bobby Dazler.

 

A BOBBY DAZZLER

Griffiths Beats Carroll

(From "Truth's" Special Dunedin Rep.) In a clinking ten-round preliminary at Dunedin, Tommy Griffiths (Bst 81b) beat Mark Carroll (9st). These boys have previously given sparkling exhibitions, but this one was a bobby-dazzler. and i-oused the big audience to tremendous enthusiasm that culminated m a burst of cheering, which lasted right through the last round. Both boys got busy from the start, Griffiths with a left to the' face and Carroll with a wicked right to the chin. They were veritable will o' the wisps and the. footwork of each was pretty. Griffiths shaded the Wanganui however so slightly m the first four. rounds but m the, fifth Carroll fought his best and made his lighter opponent blink twice with vicious right jolts to the chin. For the remaining rounds- the boys rained lefts and rights. on each other and fought the last session m such tornadic fashion as to bring the crowd to its feet. The decision m favor of Griffiths was correct, but his win was not a wide one.

Three Times on the Chin

THREE TIMES ON THE CHIN

But He Would Not Stay Down For The Full Count

The staging of a feather-weight contest m Wellington was something m the nature of a gamble.

i WITH two successive tourneys m Auckland going only short distances, it was to be expected that many were a little chary of stepping out to see Tommy Griffiths meet an unknown quantity m Darby O'Connor. Quite a number took the risk and they were rewarded with one of the best contests seen m "Wellington for many moons. All knew what a fine little boxer and bull terrier Griffiths was, but very few knew anything of the capabilities of O'Connor. He had worked pleasingly m the gym., but beyond that he was a minus quantity so far as most of the boxing world was concerned. To-day O'Connor finds himself m a totally different position. "By your deeds ye shall be known." O'Connor did not win "N.Z. Truth" thought he was entitled to a draw but

he- could not have gone up more m public estimation had he won. A tall boy, who ■will not be a fea(ther-weight many more days, he has a pleasing style. Though at times he appeared to be a little amateurish, .especially Avith his right hand, the cold •fact remains that he is anything but a lallapaloozer

can make matters very uncomfortable. That one-two left-hand punch of his is like a rapier thrust and as a points scorer it is unbeatable. Friend O'Connor found this out m the early stages and Griffiths was literally climbing all over him. Then whish! Something had happened! Griffiths was taking a course of deep breathing on the canvas and the bells were tolling over him. He heard eight and was on his feet as nine was called. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say, but the sage who penned those lines could never have been hit on the chin with a right hand. If he had he would have amended that "contempt" to "respect." Thus Griffiths showed more respect for O'Connor, being content to keep his distance. Three times the referee had to tell Griffiths to close his hand, but the boy has only a small hand and the gloves were too big. It was practically a physical impossibility to shut the glove tight. The contest meandered along nice mi. ii iimin'iiT ""-3 TAr.c.t.tM-1 iv>A_ middle

mark without anyone getting really hurt. So smoothly were things going that it was pardonable to imagine that both were doing a little stalling s for the final four rounds. Stalling or not, the fireworks came i m the twelfth. Griffiths tore into his man and drove him across the ring to the ropes, but he no sooner got to him again when bang went that right hand and Griffiths turned another flip. It was a case of down, over and up. Just to show that it was no fluke, O'Connor nailed his man again m the next spasm and Tommy down for nine was a very sick man. He managed to get through the round, however, and taking the. next and last two quietly he was very pleased to hear the last bell.

The verdict to Griffiths was popular and was perhaps right, but he had anything but a margin to spare. Though nothing was said about it and it is not being advanced as an excuse for defeat O'Connor fought with a bad right S hand, sustained m i training. After the first knock-down it was noticeable that the visitor was saving his right mitt, but pain or no pain he did not hesitate to let it go when the opportunity presented itself. Speed was the winning essential for Griffiths

His boxing school
They want Him
Boy from Dunedin
.
Kensington Drill Hall
Kensington Drill Hall
Lillian Thomas David beloved wife in middle of photo with Mirrie and Rena Tommy and Ray Griffiths sons of Thomas David above.
Griffths boxing school. Coach David Griffiths right end second row. Australiasian champion Tommy Griffiths 4th in second row. Rex 1st in second row. Arthur 2nd in third row. Mascots Cliff Griffiths and Ray Griffiths in front.

Shows bad Judgement

SHOWS BAD JUDGMENT 1928 Gillespie Fails To Get In And Do The Fighting (From "N.Z. Truth's" Special Dunedin Representative.) It was only Norman Gillespie 's bad judgment that robbed him of the thick end of the purse given by the Otago Association, m his clash with Tommy Griffiths. GILLESPIE is undoubtedly a good fighter and delivered the heaviest blows, but Griffiths was the smarter boxer and had Gillespie continually puzzled. Gillespie has been slightly hampered In his preparation since his arriA'al through lack of sparring partners, while he was also required to take off weight on the afternoon of the fight to avoid a forfeit of £25. It was apparent through hiß casual sluggishness that this had some effect on his condition. He lacked the alertness Avhich is customary m a title-holder. Griffiths is a clever boxer, who, m the course of fifteen rounds, scores a heap of points. Gillespie made the error of boxing Griffiths for thirteen rounds and then stepping out m the last two sessions m an endeavor to win by a knock-out. Griffiths' condition m the last two torrid rounds proved that Gillespie had erred m his judgment, for had there been another round to go Griffiths would assuredly have been stretched across the canvas. Griffiths trains m Archie Leckie's school and any boxer from this establishment is prepared to take all the body punishment going. Griffiths took all that Gillespie could give him and this surprised the Australian, for his straight right-left-right m the early stages repeatedly found its way to Tommy's heart and ribs with little apparent effect. Griffiths fought above himself and from the opening of the seventh round until the thirteenth he had Gillespie guessing badly. The Dunedin boy repeatedly broke through his opponent's cover with his left to the head and m breaking away adopted a crouch which Gillespie found it difficult to fathom. The exhibition of boxing was good, the in-fighting disclosing that both boys knew their business. Gillespie brought his terrific right lntp play consistently, but Griffiths' evasiveness tangled him up and many of his blows, dispatched on a K.O. mission, failed badly to connect. Gillespie lacked initiative through the middle stages of the fight. He had .slightly the best of >matters up till the fifth round, but thereafter he would get through his opponent's defence, force him off his guard and then retire when the obvious method of aggression -vras to follow m his advantage. The Dunedin boy's speed apparently puzzled the Australian, for he was not prepared to take any chances. He thus held m reserve the fighting qualities which would undoubtedly have won him the match. Griffiths' speed m getting m and his clever ducking worn the factors which won him the fight. If the boys were matched again, no doubt Gillespie would fight on different, tactics. The Australian obviously believed tnat he whs leading on points and m the last tAVO rounds he pasted the Dunedin boy unmercifully. His croAvding tactics proved that he hud fired his opportunity away — had he come m tAVo rounds earlier Griffiths was doomed for the floor. Griffiths did not make any friends by the manner m which he held his opponent m the last round. However, Gillespie was unable, even with Griffiths groggy and at his mercy,' to deliver the forget-me-not. The Australian demonstrated that the first thirteen rounds Avere merely picnic boxing, but even at the last he failed to connect Avith his heavy SAvlngs, any of Avhich, finding their mark, would have finished the fight. Wilting under the battering he had received, Griffiths was indeed fortunate to weather the round and his margin of points was considerably reduced by Gillespie's, battery of blows which came too late. The Australian fought at 8.13% and Griffiths at 8.7 &• The result of the fight should m no way affect the gate for the Leckie — Gillespie contest. Gillespie's style of always standing m to his man is similar to tiiat of Leckie. Gillespie is a straight, hard hitter and with another fortnight's work into him he should provide Leckie with the toughest proposition he. has yet encountered m his professional career. 

Boxing Death
Margaret Griffiths with her children Annie and Tom
This was on a Publicans calendar
Party at Thomas Burn Street home of Tommy's Mother and Father Margaret and David. Tommy and wife Lillian end of back row beside his parents.
David and Margaret Griffiths Golden Wedding with Tom, Lavina, Rex, Arthur. Annie and Cliff.
David Grffiths. Owen Evans. Margaret Griffiths. Ronnie Beck. Tommy Griffiths, Cliff Griffiths. Ray Beck. Lavinia Beck nee Griffiths. Ray Griffiths. Stan Beck. In Front: Ken Griffiths. Carol Evans. Rena Evans. Trevor Beck. Doreen Beck and Bill Beck.

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