Edinburgh trio worthy of place in Hall of Fame

WHEN the sponsors of the new Scottish Hall of Sporting Fame make a decision in November on who will be inaugurated to the boxing section there are three Edinburgh names that simply must not be missing.

If those behind the Chambers Street-based Scottish museum HOSF want to be taken seriously by Caledonian boxing historians and the knowledgeable boxing public, the following trio of Capital ring greats should be honoured.

Firstly, there’s Leith pawnbroker-turned-boxing promoter, Nat Dresner, who introduced big-time boxing to Scotland.

It was Leither Dresner who promoted Scotland’s first-ever British title fight, the joust for the British and European lightweight crown between Peebles-based seaman James Hall and Hamilton’s Johnny Brown in January 1923 at Annandale Street’s Industrial Hall - a 20-round bout won by Hall on points before 12,000 fans.

It was Dresner who set up a Scottish indoor record - never yet equalled - of 20,000 fans at ringside in Edinburgh’s Industrial Hall on November 24, 1924 when world-renowned British ring legend Ted "Kid" Lewis lost his British and European welterweight crown to Scotland’s Tommy Milligan over 20 rounds.

It was Dresner, despite suffering from the heart disease which would kill him aged 46, (he died the morning that the "Wembley Wizards" football team beat England at Wembley in 1928) who staged the first pro boxing match in Scotland attended by a member of the Royal family.

In 1922. when the future Duke of Kent was at ringside in the Waverley Market to see Leither George McKenzie beat Londoner Fred Bullions.

The second nomination must be featherweight James "Tancy" Lee, Scotland’s first-ever outright winner of a Lonsdale Belt.

Lee was also the first Scot to win two British titles (flyweight and featherweight) and what’s more, Leither Lee beat the Welsh flyweight regarded by many as the finest ever, Jimmy Wilde, in London in 1915 by stoppage.

Lee also coached fellow Leither Alex Ireland to win Scotland’s first-ever Olympic silver boxing medal at Antwerp in 1920.

Tancy’s nephew George McKenzie also won bronze in the same 1920 Olympic Games thanks to his famed Uncle Tancy being in his corner at Antwerp.

In addition, Tancy Lee coached Britain’s first world champion flyweight Johnny Hill and this country’s first Commonwealth Games boxing gold medal winner, Jim Rolland, at his Leith Victoria club base.

Finally, Scotland’s first world boxing champion, Edinburgh born and raised Johnny Hill, must be nominated. Why?

Hill won Scottish, British, European and World flyweight titles in an unbelievable 19 months after turning pro to become Edinburgh and Scotland’s first bona fide world champion boxer in record time.

Yet he died of pneumonia aged 22 on the same day that his American world title challenger Frankie Genaro arrived in Britain to fight him.

Indeed, erstwhile challenger Genaro ended up as a pall bearer at Hill’s funeral in the Edinburgh boxer’s adopted home of Strathmiglo in Fife.

So while the Buchanans, Lynchs, Watts and other modern names deserve recognition, I consider them easy options as everyone is aware of their achievements.

But the three aforementioned Edinburgh-based giants of early Scottish boxing would never be ignored by boxing historians and knowledgeable fans alike.

FULL credit goes to six Capital amateur boxers who passed up on their expenses to boost the Scottish Commonwealth Games squad fund for Manchester by boxing for free at Johnstone Town Hall last weekend.

The show, a fund raiser organised by Glasgow official Jim Watt, saw Sparta’s unbeaten Afro-Scots welterweight ace Fundo Mahura win his second bout by handily out-pointing Aberdonian Lee Burnett.

Another Eastern squad member to shine was Portobello’s David Appleby, who outscored Glenrothes opponent Mark Chambers, although relative Paul Appleby dropped a decision to Glenrothes boxer David Birrell.