'It was boxing that gave Johnny Owen his one positive means of self-expression . . . It is his tragedy that he found himself articulate in such a dangerous language' - Hugh McIlvanney
In 1980, Johnny Owen held the Welsh, British, European and Commonwealth bantamweight titles. Nicknamed 'the Matchstick Man' because of the skeletal physique which belied his stamina and aggression, Johnny was hugely popular. With his old-fashioned fighting style, honesty and charm, he was something to cheer about in an uncertain world and a climate of industrial decline.
In the autumn of that year, Johnny made his bid for the World Championship, flying to Los Angeles to fight the skilful, arrogant champion, Lupe Pintor of Mexico. Most pundits considered Pintor unbeatable and Owen out of his depth. Many feared for his life, comparing his emaciated body and slow mind with the power and lightning-quick reflexes of the Mexican.
Both the odds and the crowd were in favour of Pintor, but Owen had his father in his corner as his trainer, and he would produce one of the most courageous displays of bantamweight boxing ever witnessed - one that was bound to end in tragedy. Owen was knocked out in the twelfth round of the epic bout. He never regained consciousness and died 46 days later.
Writing from the unique perspective of co-producer of the BBC BAFTA-winning documentary Johnny Owen: The Long Journey, the author takes an in-depth look at Owen's life and rise to fame and tells the story of the historic week spent in Mexico with the boxer's father and trainer, Dick Owens, and of Dick's emotional reunion with the legendary boxer Lupe Pintor - the man responsible for the death of his son.
It is a story of hope and courageous struggle, of the search for resolution and forgiveness. Johnny Owen is a stunning and beautiful tale of a real people's champion and of the aftermath of one of sport's saddest occasions.