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