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Vilda Jaks-Fists in the Dark


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The story of the relatively-unknown 1930's Czechoslovak boxer Vilda Jaks is like taken from a movie-a drama involving World War 2. He is one of the few boxers who fought for a professional world title to die during World War 2, fighting as a pilot against the Nazi Germany. His whole story is rather sad and tragic and his boxing career only lasted 4 years, but during those 4 years he managed to fight for a world title against Marcel Thil and defeat a future world champion, Anton Christoforidis. 

Vilem "Vilda" Jaks (pronounced "Yaksh") was born in the village of Bratchice near the big town of Brno, in Morava region of Czechoslovakia, 25 April 1910. His father was the farmer Jozef Jaks, who conceived him with his mother Ruzena Chmelikova out of wedlock, but legitimized him after his birth. He also had a brother called Jozhka. However, his father was sadly killed in 1916, fighting as a soldier of the Austro-Hungarian army in First World War in Ukraine. Little did anyone know that would also become his son's fate, only in the next big one. As a child, Vilem or Vilda enjoyed hitting the sandbags which he and his brother used instead of punching bags. After their father's death, his paternal uncle in Praha took over the care of the two brothers and insisted they should learn the trade of furniture wallpapering. Vilda eventually started training boxing in his hometown's club "Sokol (Falcon)" and discovered his true talent lay in boxing. He eventually moved back to Praha to continue training there.

After winning the amateur national title at welterweight, Jaks became a pro in 1932. Jaks was known for having fast feet and warrior spirit, as he overcame three knockdowns against the Spanish Alvaro Santos in February 1935 to come back and win on points. In December of previous year, he won the Czechoslovakian middle title against Franta Nekolny, his main national rival, on points. In March of '35, he had two fights against Kid Tunero and won them both by PTS12. He then scored a rare KO in 3 rounds against Cheo Morejon. These wins landed him a fight for the IBU world and European middle titles, against the marvellous champion Marcel Thil. The fight was staged in Palais des Sports in Paris, 4 May that same 1935. Perhaps it was just fighting too much in hard fights that year, but Jaks/Yaksh wasn't able to overcome Thil and was down first in the ninth round and again in the thirteenth, after reportedly being hit "on the heart", before being down twice in the fourteenth. Despite beating the count, his manager threw in the towel. It was a heroic effort against a guy that would go on to make 11 successful defences. 

He also lost his next fight against Angel Clivilles on points, but then scored his biggest victory on 20 September by outboxing and beating Anton Christoforidis on points in 10 rounds. Christoforidis came in with a record of 16-0-2 and would go on to capture the world light heavy title. He ended 1935, that so-busy year, by losing to Victor Janas and then to Christoforidis, both on points. He would never again be the same fighter, as he lost all the rest of his relevant bouts, another one to Christoforidis on 2 April 1936 and before that to Edouard Tenet, both on points. He had his last fight in Lisbon, Portugal and lost to the local hero Antonio Rodrigues by PTS10. That was on 4 June 1936 and would be the last time world saw him in the ring. He left behind a short career and a lot to be wished for, with a record of 30 wins, 5 by ko, 7 losses (only one by ko) and 6 draws. He actually won most of his fights, 26 of them, in the early going, before losing for the first time to Thil. He would only win 4 more fights after that. 

In 1938, Czechoslovakia was given to Hitler's Germany and Vilda found himself the citizen of the Third Reich. He however managed to get away by getting papers to travel to Italy for a faux fight that of course was just an excuse to go from there to France. There, he joined a fighter squadron as a pilot. After the fall of Paris in May 1940, he sailed away to England, despite being engaged to a French actress who offered him to move into her home on the French riviera. In England, he trained with RAF to become a machine gunner on a bomber airplane. He took part in the raid on Brussels and received the highest Czechoslovakian military decoration for bravery. On 21 August 1943, he was flying over the Bay of Biscayne in France when his airplane got shot down by the German Messerschmitt-airplanes. He was 33. His body was never found. 

And so ended the life of Vilem Vilda Jaks, affectionately known as "Yaksha". In 1991, he was posthumously promoted into the rank of colonel by the Czechoslovak democratic government. A movie inspired by his life and career, titles "Fists in the Dark" was released in 1989. The story of Vilda Jaks is the story of a typical East European man of his generation-doomed to fight his whole life and not living long. He was the first Czech and Czechoslovak boxer to become famous and fight for a world title and one of the first Eastern European ones as well. He was obviously never a puncher but a true warrior nevertheless. May he rest in peace.




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