As reported in the World’s Press on the 20th of January, 1937, Scottish boxer, Benny Lynch, was crowned World Flyweight Champion after the previous evening’s bout in .
Benny Lynch became Scotland’s first World Boxing Champion and justly deserves his place as a legend of the fight game. He is considered by many to have been one of the greatest flyweights in the history of the sport, never mind his brief period of fame in that pre-Second World War era. And no less an authority than Ring Magazine described him as the greatest fighter that Scotland has ever produced. Couple those accolades and it is surely that case that Scotland’s finest pugilist was also, at the very least, one of the finest boxers ever to come out of Great Britain. According to Jim Watt and as reported in The Herald of the 7th of August, 1996, at a graveside commemorative service the previous day, “Benny was quite simply a legend. He was a fantastic boxer and an inspiration to a whole generation of fighters.”
Lynch enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of his sport and was a sporting celebrity throughout Britain in the mid-1930s. With consummate ring-craft and a formidable punch, Lynch became Scottish champion in 1934 after just three and a half years of his professional career. Just a year later, in September, in Manchester, at the age of twenty-two, he famously became British, European and World Flyweight Champion by a stoppage, after knocking down title holder Jackie Brown ten times before the referee ended the contest – in the second round. With typical bigotry, the ‘City Fathers’ of Glasgow Corporation denied Lynch a formal welcome after the Brown fight in 1935. However, unimpressed and undeterred, around 100,000 Glasgow folk lined the streets between Glasgow Central Station and Lynch’s home in the South Side to cheer their diminutive hero. Equally undeterred and on the 19th of January, 1937, Lynch won lasting fame and glory as undisputed Champion of the World in his division, when he took a 15-round points decision from Small Montana. That same year, in front of 40,000 people at Rutherglen’s Shawfield Stadium, he knocked out his eventual successor, Peter Kane.
Lynch honed his skills and earned a few bob by fighting older and heavier opponents in travelling boxing booths. He was an orthodox flyweight, calculating on the attack, and with an outstanding defence. He also had explosive punching power and immaculate timing. His prolific skills ensured that he had no equals among his flyweight contemporaries and at one point he racked up an unbeaten string of fifty fights. Benny Lynch was British flyweight champion 1935-38, National Boxing Association (NBA) and International Boxing Union (IBU) champion 1935-37, and undisputed World Champion 1937-38. According to the ‘BoxRec’ website, in his brief professional boxing career, which spanned just seven years, Lynch fought a total of 108 bouts, boxing 878 rounds, in which he had 81 wins, including 34 knockouts, 15 draws and a mere 12 losses.
Unfortunately, fame didn’t seem to rest easily on Lynch’s frail shoulders and his all too short life was blighted by alcoholism, which contributed to his weight problems. He often struggled to make the 112lb limit and, in 1938, he lost his title on the scales– for being six and a half pounds overweight. John Burrowes wrote in ‘Benny: The Life and Times of a Fighting Legend’ that Lynch “battled his way above and beyond the ‘fifty-shilling men’ of his home town of Glasgow to become the champion of Scotland, Britain, Europe and the World, earning a reputation as one of the greatest pugilists of all time.” Benny Lynch was also celebrated in song by Scotland’s Matt McGinn, who wrote:
“He beat Small Montana, he floored Peter Kane,
Sent him back to train – then downed him again,
The Lynch-pin of boxing inflicted more pain,
And the city sang ‘Benny Has Been’.”
Prior to 1934, Scotland had never seen his like – and since his tragic death in 1946, it hasn’t seen a boxing idol to compare with his legendary status.
Benny John Lynch was born in Florence Street, in Glasgow’s Gorbals district, on the 2nd of April 2 1913. Neither the tough man or the mean street, nor the rough district, can be seen today. He had been a newspaper boy and, like many another, began boxing as a teenager, in a bid to escape the poverty and deprivation of his neighbourhood. With other aspiring fighters, he learned his craft at local clubs, such as LMS Rovers. In addition, he served ‘an apprenticeship’ – and earned illicit cash – in the fairground booths on Glasgow Green. Lynch’s potential was spotted by a Bookie called Sammy Wilson, who opened his own boxing club, the New Polytechnic, in Clyde Place, and signed up Lynch. In those days, training was bit like that portrayed by Rocky Balboa, with Lynch sparring twenty rounds a day, going on grueling six mile runs up Cathkin Braes, and toughening his hands in brine. Benny was wee, standing only 5 feet, 5 ½ inches tall, but he won 35 of 37 amateur fights, before turning professional in 1931.
In his first fight, in Glasgow, he stopped Young McColl in round three and in one year, 1933, he fought an amazing seventeen bouts. He won the Scottish flyweight title in Glasgow, in 1934, by defeating Jim Campbell on points after 15 rounds. His first fight with title holder Jackie Brown took place in Glasgow and ended in a draw, but Lynch won the return in Manchester, taking his titles in some style. In 1936, Lynch had nine wins, including a title defence against Pat Palmer in which he won a Lonsdale Belt outright. And, of course, his legendary status was sealed in January, 1937, when he defeated the American, Small Montana, at Wembley. Eight months later in Glasgow, Lynch successfully defended his crown by knocking out Peter Kane in round thirteen.
Sadly, by then, his demons had begun to take their toll and on the 29th of June, 1938, Lynch was stripped of his world title when he tipped the scales six and a half pounds overweight prior to his bout with Jackie Jurich in Paisley. Although the title was officially abandoned, the fight took place anyway. Lynch floored Jurich six times and knocked him out in the 12th round. Benny Lynch’s last contest was on the 3rd of October, 1938, in which he suffered the only knockout of his professional career, at the hands of journeyman fighter, Aurel Toma, in round three. His fighter’s licence was revoked. Benny Lynch died in the Southern General Hospital of pneumonia, brought on by malnutrition and alcoholism, on the 6th of August, 1946. He was buried in Lambhill Cemetery.