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1980s / Johnny Owen - Boxing Fatality
This is the concluding segment of a BBC documentary on Welsh boxer Johnny Owen. Owen died from injuries he suffered in a world bantamweight championship fight versus titleholder Lupe Pintor of Mexico on September 19, 1980. Owen's scrawny appearance--and his nickname the "Matchstick Man"--belied the fact he was a scrappy battler with a 25-1-1 record who held the Welsh, British, Commonwealth, and European bantamweight championships. The title fight took place in front of a hostile crowd of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Before, during, and after the fight, Owens' handlers and the Welsh fans who had travelled thousands of miles to support Owen were routinely pelted with cups of urine thrown at them by the Hispanic fans. Nevertheless, Owen surprised everyone by putting on a competitive fight. Some writers had Owen ahead after eight rounds, but he was tiring. In the ninth round he was knocked down for the first time in his pro career. In the fateful twelfth round, Pintor floored Owen again. Owen rose and a few seconds later was knocked unconscious by a Pintor straight right. A blood clot formed on Owen's brain. He never regained consciousness and died 45 days after the fight. He was 24 years old. Owen's family held no grudge against Pintor and encouraged him to continue his boxing career. When a memorial statue to Owen was about to erected in his hometown of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales in 2000, Owen's father insisted Pintor perform the official unveiling. Pintor obliged.