Bowen was born in Treherbert. Originally a collier, Bowen was trained to box by George Cundick, who had learnt his art as a physical training instructor with the British Army in India. Cundick also trained Leslie Williams. After turning professional and getting married, Bowen won the Welsh lightweight title, and started boxing on the various British circuits.
Cundick arranged for a series of boxing contests in the United States for both of his boxers, and they booked tickets with agents Dean and Dawson in Cardiff (ticket number 54636, £16 pounds 2 shillings). Boarding Titanic at Southampton as third class passengers, Bowen wrote a letter to his mother dated 11 April 1912, stating that "This is a lovely boat, she is very near so big as Treherbert."
Both boxers died in the sinking, although Bowen's body was never recovered. The body of Williams was recovered by the CS Mackay-Bennett, and buried at sea on Monday 22 April 1912. Bowen's family paid for a grave site memorial in his honour to be erected in Treorchy Cemetery.