ONE OF the finest fighters never to have won a British title is, unquestionably, Birmingham’s Owen Moran.

At the time that Moran was active, between 1900 and 1916, the British title really came into its own as a prestigious title in this country. By 1909, when the Lonsdale Belt was established, all eight weight categories had only one clear-cut and undisputed champion.  Moran boxed between bantamweight and lightweight during his lengthy career and I find it hard to believe that a man of such talent was not crowned the king of his country.

The Midlands was a breeding ground for quality fighters back in the early 1900s and it had also produced many of England’s bareknuckle champions before that, including William Perry (The Tipton Slasher), Tom Paddock and Tom Allen, and Moran was a worthy successor to these men of iron. His first important contest took place at the National Sporting Club in 1903 against Digger Stanley and although Moran lost this bout on points, it brought him to the forefront of the leading bantamweights of the day. In January 1905 the two met again, at the same venue, this time over twenty rounds and in a match that was billed for the 8st 2lbs championship of England. This time it was Moran who took the decision and within a few months he was in the USA, on his first tour, where he won both of his contests, including a victory over Monte Attell, the brother of the more famous Abe.

It was in the States that Owen seemed to fight at his best and he stayed over there between 1907 and 1912, and he made a huge name for himself taking on the best in the world. In November 1907 he trounced the leading challenger for the featherweight title, Frankie Neil. The men were contracted to weigh in at 122lbs three and a half hours before they entered the ring and after administering a sustained beating Moran won when the police stepped into the ring to halt the contest.

Having passed this test, Moran was invited to box Abe Attell for the world featherweight title and the two men met on New Year’s Day, 1908, in a 25-rounder at San Francisco, with the referee being none other than the ex-heavyweight champion of the world, James J Jeffries.

Jeffries was a much better fighter than he was a third man and he decided upon a draw after the two men had stood toe-to-toe for 75 minutes. The consensus amongst observers, and especially the British, was that Moran had won quite easily. The “Mirror of Life and Boxing World” probably called it right in an editorial when it stated that “Moran must have done better than Attell, otherwise the American would have been given the decision”.

In his next contest Owen took a newspaper decision in a six-rounder against the great Ad Wolgast.  With so many US states banning boxing unless the fighters agreed to a No Decision contest, the referee was not allowed to give a verdict if the bout ran its full course.  To get round this, a poll was taken of those reporters in attendance and the unofficial winner was the man who gained the most votes.  The newspapermen, therefore, decided the outcome.

Moran also beat Harlem Tommy Murphy, Matty Baldwin and Frankie Conley and, in 1910, he knocked out Battling Nelson, one of the best, and most ferocious, of the early world lightweight champions.

When Moran finally returned to the UK in 1912 he was quickly matched with the great Jim Driscoll for the British featherweight title, and the two men met on January 27, 1913, at the National Sporting Club, and once again, a decision of a draw came between Moran and a title. This time the consensus was with the Welshman for, although Moran fought his heart out, he did not do enough to win. He retired a few years later and passed away in his native Birmingham, aged 64, in 1949.