EX-REFEREE Wynford Jones, like me an Area Representative on the Board of Control, told me last week about the recent passing, on December 20, of Dennis Avoth. According to Wynford, who represented the Board, the funeral was exceptionally well attended.

Dennis was one of three boxing brothers with Eddie, British light-heavyweight champion between 1969 and 1971, the most well-known. Les was a decent welter and middle in the early 1970s and Dennis became the Welsh heavyweight champion in 1971, a title he successfully defended twice, before he bowed out of the game in 1973. Dennis, like his brothers, was a very popular man in Cardiff, his native city, and he will be much missed.

Dennis was an Army Cadet champion in 1965, the Welsh amateur heavyweight champion in 1967 and a competitor in the European Championships later that same year. He also represented his country against Holland, France and Scotland. He turned pro in 1967, signing up with Eddie Thomas and joining a stable that included Howard Winstone, Ken Buchanan and brother Eddie.  Carl Gizzi, from Rhyl, was also under contract to Thomas and with Roger Tighe, the stable was not short of heavyweights. By the end of 1970, with Avoth’s career showing signs of a stop-start nature, he had won only 14 of his 29 contests and was nestling just outside the UK top 10, Dennis left Thomas to be managed by his father Jack. The following year, 1971, turned out to be his most successful in the game, with five straight wins and the Welsh title secured, and it wasn’t long before he was matched with both of his previous stablemates, Gizzi and Tighe.

While under contract to Thomas, Dennis twice went in with Bunny Johnson, future British heavyweight champion, and he came out on the wrong end of two lopsided decisions. A third fight was therefore a priority for his Jack, and after matching his son with Dartford’s Brian Hall, a contest that Avoth won clearly, the two men met for their rubber match at Solihull in September 1971. Johnson, fighting in his hometown, was expected to win easily but Avoth shocked him by taking a tight decision after eight rounds of competitive boxing. Despite having to weather a tough final round, Avoth kept busy throughout, always working at close quarters, to gain his revenge.

This win brought him a contest with Gizzi for the Welsh title. It says a lot about the sad state of small hall boxing at the time, particularly in the principality, that this contest took place at the World Sporting Club, in Mayfair, in the heart of London, rather than in Wales. Gizzi was a seasoned performer, on the slide admittedly, but a man who had been in with four British heavyweight champions, and he was expected to win this one. Dennis had other ideas and after 10 rounds of give-and-take, a controversial decision went his way. BN reported that “Avoth, giving away height reach and nearly eleven pounds in weight, put up the fight of his life to win.  His persistency was commendable. Gizzi, who boxed for the British title in 1969, had a terribly jaded look. Avoth pulled out everything in a last-round rally but could only share the round on our card.” Like many other observers, BN thought the decision harsh. Nevertheless, Dennis went on to defend his title in 1972 against Del Phillips, once more in London, and in 1973 against Gene Innocent, this time at the Top Rank Suite, in Swansea.

Avoth worked extremely hard to win his title against Gizzi and he put everything into these two defences. He was a very proud champion of his native country. He was also proud to box on a show in the Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, held the day after the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969. Dennis wasn’t the greatest heavyweight to have come out of Wales, but he was one of the most respected.