In this period of his career Tommy would also claim victory over Belgian champion Francois Machtens, Irish champion Jack Garland, Scottish champion Peter Cuthbertson, Welsh champion Ginger Jones and highly rated Frenchman Julian Verbist. His only defeat from March 1930 until May 1933 would be at the hands of Dom Volante. Watson, diagnosed with tonsillitis, flu and an abscess of the ear refused to call of the fight with Volante who was a very good boxer and had beaten sixteen champions in his career. Watson would pay heavily seeing the canvas six times before his corner retired him.
Watson's impressive run would finally earn him a shot at the British featherweight championship. His opponent would be Nel Tarleton, a Liverpudlian who had earned a reputation by beating a line of top competitors and had drawn with ring legend Panama Al Brown just months before this fight (Remarkably Tarleton did this with a ruptured spine muscle, revealed after the fight).
They would fight over fifteen rounds at The Stadium in Liverpool, Watson would show tremendous work rate in a very close fight which went the full distance (Watson cutting Tarleton's eye in the fifteenth). Watson's hand would be raised at the end and the Geordie fans would raise the roof as Lord Lonsdale presented Tommy with the Lonsdale Belt making him the first boxer from the North-East of England to win a British championship.
Tommy would set his sights on world glory and hoped to fight Kid Chocolate in America for his world featherweight championships. Watson set sail for America only to be told that all foreigners must first prove themselves in the states before being granted a shot at the champion. Watson had to go through the rigmarole of having to impress a judging committee behind closed doors in two-round sparring sessions with several fighters.
Although upset that a fighter of his calibre would have to go through such ridiculous measures he agreed and was granted the title fight only for Chocolate to be deported from the US as he did not have a permit for visiting from the Department of Labour (Chocolate had fought their twenty-five times previously without being asked for this permit). The fight was again on the back burner.
Undeterred in his pursuit for world glory Tommy agrees to fight former world flyweight champion and Olympic gold medallist Fidel La Barba in an eliminator for the world featherweight championship. La Barba was a class act and had beaten world champions such as Frankie Genaro, Jimmy McLarnin and even Kid Chocolate in a non-title match.
The fight would take place at Madison Square Garden in front of over 11,000 spectators in what would be the first appearance of a British featherweight champion in an American ring for over twenty years. La Barba started fast putting Tommy on the mat in the first round but Watson clawed his way back punching La Barba into the ropes in round four. Although close in the early rounds Watson vicious work rate won him many of the latter rounds and he cut Fidel's left eye in the eleventh.
When the bell ended after the twelfth Tommy's hand was raise and the New York fans all cheered their new hero. Watson would arrive back in Newcastle to a thunderous reception as if he had won a world title.
Eligio Sardinas Montalvo (Kid Chocolate) was a Cuban sensation and is still classed as one of the greatest ever fighters too this day. Watson would have his work cut out if he was to beat the Cuban who had only been beaten by a handful of boxers all of whom were considered top world level boxers (Jack 'Kid' Berg, Fidel la Barba, Toni Canzoneri and Battling Battalino).
There was 14,000 fans awaiting Tommy Watson to see if he could beat Chocolate at Madison Square garden on the 19th May 1935 and none would leave disappointed after a brilliant fight. Chocolate would use his boxing skills wisely whilst looking to land his big left whereas Watson used his in-fighting style going to the body trying to break Chocolate down.
Watson saw the canvas in the tenth round being caught with a left hook but was straight back to his feet. He would catch the Kid in the twelfth with a big right that buckled the Cubans knees and bloodied his lips but stood off and gave him time to recover. It was all square going into the fifteenth and final round and in the end the judges felt Chocolate had done enough to retain his championships.
There were many who disagreed with the verdict including Watson, who never one to complain told close friends and family after he retired that he thought he was robbed. The fight earned Watson a lot of praise including of former world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey who labelled Watson a great fighter. Kid Chocolates manager Luis Gutierrez also stated that his boy had taken more punishment in that fight that in any other to date.
Tommy's bad-luck continued after the fight when the promised re-match fell through along with other big fights against the likes of Panama Al Brown, Toni Canzoneri, Tommy Rogers and Jimmy Walsh, all for various reasons. Watson would keep him self busy whilst waiting for a another championship bout by winning several big fights against the likes of Dave Crowley, Johnny Cuthbert and Billy Gannon. He would also make a defence of his British title beating Scotland's Johnny McMillan over fifteen rounds.
A win over the current British bantamweight champion Dick Corbett would lead Watson to his second defence against old rival Nel Tarleton. In another close fight Watson was ahead going into the thirteenth round when an unintentional head butt by Tarleton badly cut Tommy, stunning him and leaving him with blood gushing down his face. Tarleton would take the last two rounds narrowly earning him the fight an dethroning Watson of the belt.
Watson would spend the rest of his career fighting as a lightweight and entering an elimination contest to challenge Jack 'Kid' Berg for the British title. Tommy would get to the final by beating Tommy Spiers, Frankie Brown and revenging a controversial loss to Sonny Lee (Watson was disqualified in the first bout for a supposed low-blow).
Before the final Watson would face-off with Freddie Miller, the American who was ranked as the number three pound for pound fighter in the world. The fight would see both men down several times with Miller taking the decision after ten rounds. A re-match was signed and a month later they would go at it again.
The first round saw both men go toe to toe with Watson winning the round, when they came out for the second Watson set the pace high putting Miller on the back foot but Miller had timed Tommy and when he got his chance he caught Tommy with a terrific left hook which put the Seaman on the floor for the full count.
Watson's next fight was the final eliminator for the British Title against George Daly. Again bad luck would strike and Watson would be cut badly by accidental clash of heads in the opening round forcing him to fight practically blinded for the remainder of the eight rounds, whereby the fight was stopped due to the cuts.
Watson would retire after the fight at the age of twenty seven claiming he had had too much damage done to his eyes over the last few years and did not want to risk his sight. In retirement Watson would become a referee and manage several bars. He served as a Petty Officer Physical Training Instructor during world war 2 and continued to do lots of work for charity, as he had done during his career.
Watson's final record shows 122 fights in total, 112 of which were victory's including nine defeats and one draw. He will be remembered as a great British champion who was unlucky not to be given the decision for a world championship. Tommy Watson came up against three fighters from the International Boxing Hall of Fame beating Fidel La Barba and taking Kid Chocolate and Freddie Miller to the wire losing close decisions.