Tribute to boxer Darkie Hughes, 85

17 February 2016

Tributes have been paid to former Welsh champion boxer David “Darkie” Hughes, who has died at the age of 85.

Grangetown-based Hughes fought 46 professional fights – winning 33 of them – at both welterweight and light-weight, with a reputation for courage, style and skill.

He had previously won the Welsh and British ABA titles as an amateur in 1953. In 1960, his victory over Billy “Spider” Kelly at Sophia Gardens in a title eliminator gave him a crack at the British light-weight title. But he faced a frustrating year waiting for his chance. When he eventually faced champion Dave Charnley at Nottingham Ice Rink it ended all too quickly – inside 40 seconds of the first round, which was then a British record.

The young Hughes took up boxing as a schoolboy, after being bullied. He was born in April 1930 in Herbert Street in Butetown to a Trinidad-born father, a sailor, who died in 1942 when his ship was torpedoed. The young David went to St Mary’s school and fought at the central youth club and by the age of 15 was the Welsh and British Army Cadet champion.

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After turning pro, he fought Willie Lloyd for the vacant Welsh lightweight title at Maindy Stadium. Boxing historian Gareth Jones, in his The Boxers of Cardiff wrote: “A hand injury hampered Hughes but there were still many who thought refereee Joe Morgan wrong in giving the decision to Lloyd.”

Of that all too sudden ending to his British title hopes in 1961, Jones added: “A southpaw right hook staggered the drawn-looking challenger in the opening seconds, another sent him to his haunches and when he rose, a third sent Darkie crashing in his own corner, his head bouncing off the canvas.”

Although he gave up boxing a few years later, Darkie remained interested in the sport and was a leading light in the establishment of a boxers’ union in Wales.

Outside the ring, working life included time as a boilerman and took him from Wyndam’s engineering in the docks, Barry railway depot, Aberthaw power station to Llanwern steelworks.

Darkie married Sheila in 1950 and they had four children – Jackie, Alan, Alison and Joanne. They lived in Warwick Street and also Somerset Street in Grangetown before a move to Llanrumney. He was well known face in the Grange pub and at Grangetown bowls club.

Darkie also leaves nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He died peacefully in a care home on 8th January and his funeral was held at St Mary’s church.

Thanks to Grangetown Local History Society and the Hughes family

 

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