Boxing legend of Glasgow's Benny Lynch

He was the archetypal product of 'No Mean City' Glasgow.

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Huge crowds would gather  to watch Benny in training
Huge crowds would gather to watch Benny in training

His name was Benny Lynch – and he became Scotland's greatest boxer.

The little man from the Gorbals was born 100 years ago this month, in April 1913. He burned brightly but briefly, however his flame has never gone out.

Benny has been written about endlessly.

In a 1982 biography, Benny, journalist John Burrowes wrote: "Lynch was Scotland's first World Boxing Champ. He was the most talked-about sportsman in Britain in the Thirties. He became a legend in his own lifetime."

Lynch won the British, European and World flyweight titles from Jackie Brown in an historic bout in Manchester on September 9, 1935.

He was born at 17 Florence Street, in the old Gorbals. This was an era when street games often ended bloodily. Even at a young age, Lynch showed he was handy with his fists.

A revealing early passage in Burrowes' book says Lynch saw his first combat in street rammies.

"The other boys were older and bigger. But that didn't deter. The punitive battle was short and swift. And the littlest Lynch became a marked man. One to be watched. To be aware of. Not to be crossed. And he was nine years of age."

It was that grit, that toughness hewn on Gorbals' streets, that spurred him on to his world title.

Lynch's final years, however, were a sad tale of decline and alcoholism.

Eventually, he spent some time at Mount Melleray, a celebrated Irish monastery. The Catholic Herald of December 9, 1938, said Lynch would find "a rule of discipline, a strict yet human observance of certain laws, true friendship that arises from the desire to help humanity."

But Lynch was beyond help.

Wrote Burrowes: "The years after Mount Melleray were mainly those of a lonely and sad figure suffering from alcoholism, deserted by the great band of friends and followers who had enjoyed the limelight of the greatest-ever boxer in Scotland."

Lynch's fight with Aurel Toma, in London on October 3, 1938, was his 104th listed fight.

"It was the first time he had ever been knocked out," writes Burrowes.

It was also the last time he was ever to have an official bout. His licence was revoked and then, on August 26, 1939, finally withheld, because he was unable to pass the Boxing Board's fitness test.

He would make one attempt at a comeback, but "delirium tremens and training don't mix," said Burrowes.

On August 7, 1946, he was rushed to Glasgow's Southern General, suffering from respiratory problems. Pneumonia had set in. He died there, aged just 33.

The one-time World champion was buried at St Kentigern's cemetery. Some 2000 people, among them many well-known boxers and referees, gathered there before the hearse arrived.

He was not, the Evening Times noted, forgotten "by the people whom he had thrilled at his championship fights."

In a moving tribute the day after the boxer's death, the paper's boxing correspondent, Euan Wellwood, wrote: "The history of the boxing game is replete with tragic stories, but none in my experience compares with that of Benny Lynch ...

"In his heyday as a fighter he was acclaimed by thousands; last night he entered a Glasgow hospital alone at five o'clock, and a little over three hours later he was dead."

Added Wellwood: "He will go down in history as the most completely equipped fighter-boxer Scotland has ever known; a veritable artist of the ring.

"His fights inside the ring were classics; his struggle with his failings outside the ring was pitiful.

"Lynch was his own worst enemy, but in my long acquaintance with him I found him at all times charitable to others and constructive in his criticism of boxers who sought to follow his ring example."

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