Billy Townsend came to Nanaimo at age two and worked in the coal mines from a young age until he answered a newspaper advertisement for boxers at age fourteen. He and his brother Joe fought as amateurs for the “Hopes and Has Beens” Club. Although the world titles eluded him, Townsend, often called the “Blond Tiger”, had a successful pro career and was known as a ‘puncher.’
Townsend won the Canadian lightweight and welterweight titles in the 1920s before turning pro at age sixteen. He fought eleven main event bouts at New York’s Madison Square Gardens, including four against world champions. A few of the big names Townsend faced included Billy Petrolle in the biggest fight of his career, Bat Battlino, Tony Canzoneri, Benny Leonard, and Joe Glick.
During his pro career, Townsend fought over three hundred bouts with only twenty-two losses. He retired from the ring in 1934 but came back in 1936. In this comeback he won twelve bouts in a row only to have his win streak broken by a knockout in the thirteenth round of the thirteenth bout.
The Ring magazine called him the “greatest lightweight boxer ever produced in Canada.”