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Johnny Owen

British boxer

Died when: 24 years 302 days (297 months)
Star Sign: Capricorn


Johnny Owen John Richard Owens (7 January 1956 – 4 November 1980) was a Welsh professional boxer who fought under the name Johnny Owen. His seemingly fragile appearance earned him many epithets, including 'the Bionic Bantam' and 'the Merthyr Matchstick'. He began boxing at the age of eight and undertook a long amateur career, competing in more than 120 fights and representing Wales. He turned professional in September 1976 at the age of 20, winning his debut bout against George Sutton. Owen would beat Sutton again in his sixth professional fight to win his first title, the vacant Welsh Area bantamweight title. Three further victories led Owen to challenge for the British bantamweight title in only his tenth professional fight. He defeated champion Paddy Maguire in the eleventh round to win the title, becoming the first Welshman in more than 60 years to hold the belt. Owen recorded five further victories, including a defence of his British title against Wayne Evans, before meeting Paul Ferreri for the Commonwealth bantamweight title. He defeated the experienced Australian on points to claim the Commonwealth title and challenged Juan Francisco Rodríguez for the European title four months later. The fight in Almería, Spain, was shrouded in controversy and Owen suffered his first defeat in a highly contentious decision. Owen went on to win seven consecutive bouts in the space of a year to rechallenge Rodríguez in February 1980 in Wales. He avenged his earlier defeat by defeating Rodríguez on points to win the European title. He challenged WBC champion Lupe Pintor for his version of the world bantamweight title on 19 September 1980, losing a torturously difficult contest by way of a twelfth round knockout. Owen left the ring on a stretcher and never regained consciousness. He fell into a coma and died seven weeks later in a Los Angeles hospital at the age of 24. Owen possessed a professional career record of 25 wins, 11 by knockout, 1 draw and 2 defeats. His only career losses came against Rodríguez and Pintor. He remains revered in the South Wales Valleys where he was raised, particularly in his hometown of Merthyr Tydfil where a statue commemorating his life and career was unveiled in 2002.
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