John Richard Owens (January 7, 1956-November 4, 1980) was a professional Welsh boxer who participated in the competition under the name of Johnny Owen. His seemingly fragile appearance has earned him many nicknames, including "Merthyr Matchstick" and "Bionic Bantam". He started boxing at the age of eight, and engaged in a long amateur career, participated in more than 120 matches, and represented Wales in competitions. In September 1976, when he was only 20 years old, he turned into a professional player and won his debut with George Sutton. Owen defeated Sutton again in his sixth professional match and won his first title, the vacant bantamweight title in the Wales region.
Owen challenged the British bantamweight title in his tenth professional combat in 1977. He defeated champion Paddy Maguire in the eleventh round to win the championship, becoming the first Welshman to hold a belt in more than 60 years. Irving scored five more victories, including defending his British title against Wayne Evans before competing with Paul Ferreri for the title of Commonwealth Bantamweight. He defeated the experienced Australian in points, won the Commonwealth Championship, and challenged Juan Francisco Rodríguez for the European Championship four months later. The battle in Almeria, Spain is full of controversy, and Owen suffered his first defeat in a highly controversial decision.
In February 1980, Irving won seven consecutive games in a year and challenged Rodriguez again. He defeated Rodriguez by points, won the European Championship title, and avenged his earlier defeat. On September 19, 1980, he challenged the World Boxing Council (WBC) champion Lupe Pintor for his title of world bantamweight title. After being knocked down for the third time, he lost in the twelfth round of the knockout round. game. Owen put the ring on the stretcher and never regained consciousness. He fell into a coma and died in a Los Angeles hospital seven weeks later at the age of 24.
Owen's career record is 25 wins, 11 draws and 2 losses. The only loss of his career was against Rodriguez and Pinto. He is still respected in the valleys of South Wales where he grew up, especially in his hometown Merthyr Tydfil, where a statue commemorating his life and career was unveiled in 2002.