Today’s blog post concerns a boxer who represented Great Britain in the welterweight division at the 1924 Paris Games: J. Basham. Officially he is known as Joseph J. “Johnny” Basham but, as will be seen, we cannot be entirely certain of this. What we do know is that he was about 21 years old when he attended the Olympics and a member of the Columbia Amateur Boxing Club.
The first obstacle we encounter is that there was a much more well-known professional boxer from Wales with the name Johnny Basham who also competed as a welterweight. His professional career began in 1909, which precludes him from being the Olympian, but the two are often confused in both contemporary and more recent accounts. In fact, while we usually like to illustrate our blog posts, and a good picture claimed to be of the professional Basham is widely available, we have chosen not to post it here, to avoid adding further confusion. Thus, at a basic level, any search for a Johnny Basham or a boxing J. Basham is complicated by the existence of this other boxer. In the few newspaper clippings we have been able to locate referring to the Olympian, as is the case for many early athletes, only his first initial, “J.” is given, and never his given name, adding another layer of uncertainty to the search.
To add to the difficulties, it appears that there may have been two other boxing Bashams that were active around this time, one associated with the London Fire Brigade in the late 1920s, and one associated with the London & Northeast Railway and Goodmans Yard in the early 1920s. Since the Olympic Basham did not have a significant amateur career, it is difficult to connect any details of his life to the other Bashams, particularly as newspapers of the time do not seem to have made much effort to distinguish the professional from the amateurs, let alone amongst the amateurs.
One possible candidate (assuming the age of 21 in 1924 is correct) for the amateur boxer is John Basham, born March 19, 1903 in Manchester, who worked on the railways and was living in London around the time of the Paris Olympics. There was also a James George Basham, born May 12, 1903, who is noted in 1939 to be a fireman with the London Fire Brigade, but in both cases there are no obvious links to either man being the Olympic boxer.
(Article on Johnny Basham’s injury from the June 6, 1928 edition of The Guardian, page 19)
A newspaper article from 1928 noted that a former British welterweight champion boxer and fireman named Johnny Basham was injured in a training accident and hospitalized at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. There is, however, no evidence that the professional was ever a fireman; in fact, a later article noted a communication from the professional, back at home in Wales, that there was “no truth whatever[sic]” in the previous report. Consequently, there is no evidence of the amateur Johnny Basham ever winning any titles or championships. A 1924 article states J. Basham of Columbia ABC to be the “winner of military, polytechnical and V Division 10st 7lb competitions”, though we have not been able to find any further information about this.
(Basham’s denial of injury, from the June 7, 1928 edition of The Guardian, page 4)
Thus, we could have at least three boxing J. Bashams: Johnny (the professional), John (the railway worker), and James (the fireman). The railway worker and the fireman may be the same individual and, given how common the surname Basham is, it is possible that the Olympian, perhaps named Joseph, is someone entirely different than anyone we have mentioned here. While this can get confusing, we hope that we can clear up at least one misconception with this post: the Olympic boxer is not the same as the Welsh professional , but the jury still remains out on who the Olympic boxer was.
As we often do here, we want to thank Connor Mah and Rob Gilmore for contributing to this post and uncovering much of the information!