Jimmy Powers
New York Daily News, Tuesday, May 2, 1939

There's a big party over in the little town of Nanticoke, Pa., tonight. It is in honor of Billy Speary, a Welsh-American school bus driver, a lad who's scarcely bigger than a fire hydrant. Speary has engaged in 155 contests he has won 145 and, in return bouts, he either defeated or knocked out every boy who won a decision over him.

Speary holds 13 amateur boxing titles. Professional managers and promoters constantly besieged him with glamorous offers to turn pro. It's a cinch Bill can lick most pros his weight. He knows it. But his heart is set on the 1940 Olympics.

I think the secret of Speary's success can be summed up as follows: (a) He does exactly what his trainer, coach and friend, Art Thomas, tells him to do. (b) He is intelligent. (c) He is brave.

New Yorkers got their first glance at Speary in the '37 Golden Gloves when he amazed his pals in the anthracite country by walking into Madison Square Garden and winning the flyweight crown. That same year he beat his Chicago opponent and copped the national Golden Gloves title, the most important trophy in the amateur field. He went on to win the national A.A.U. title in Boston beating practically the same boys again.

In '38 Speary competed as a bantam. His coach, Art Thomas, does not believe in "sweating" youngsters down to a 112-pound level when their natural weight is 118. Thomas moved Billy into the heavier class. Billy duplicated his achievement of '37. He won the Middle Atlantic, the New York Golden Gloves, the InterCity Golden Gloves and the National A.A.U. crowns. He then became the most widely traveled and best-known amateur in the world. He toured South America, Texas, California, Washington, New Jersey and Honolulu.

Everywhere, promoters of amateur shows, the Knights of Columbus, Masons, Elks, Odd Fellows, athletic clubs and parish associations want Speary to headline their shows.

And in every town the local pride invariably was given the edge. Billy often conceded weight up to 12 pounds. But he turned back all comers and when this winter came around, Speary again sent in his entry to the Gloves and again skyrocketed to the top. He became the greatest Golden Gloves champion in history!

Like all champions, Speary had to learn that the crowd roots for the underdog. Poor Billy was very close the tears when I visited him in his dressing room at the Garden last March. He had been struck low in the first round of his bout with Peter Beaton. The blows staggered him and he hung on throughout the round. Apparently only the referee, judges and newspaper men saw the low blow. Speary recovered to breeze through the second and third rounds. He won the decision unanimously. But when he put on his bathrobe and stepped out onto the ring apron the crowd booed. Billy blinked. His coach whispered into his ear: "Don't be a baby. Don't cry. Stick your chin up and walk out of here with your head high." And Billy did hold his head up, until he got to his dressing room.


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