THE eagerly-awaited up-coming British title fight featuring Edinburgh champion Alex Arthur and Glasgow challenger Willie Limond has re-ignited the debate concerning which side of Scotland holds the boxing upper-hand, east or west?
A question easily answered in a football context given the Glasgow Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers’ dominance in Scotland at domestic level, but in boxing very little separates both regions.
True, in April 1911 Airdrie bantamweight Alex Lafferty may have blasted out Leith legend Tancy Lee in the 12th round of a Scottish title joust in Edinburgh’s Olympia roller skating rink in Annandale Street. But this masks the fact that Lee, Scotland’s first ever outright Lonsdale Belt winner, was leading by a mile on points until a moment of carelessness led to him being knocked out.
In addition, between February 1911 and March 1914, Tancy stopped, knocked out, won on points or by disqualification ten Glasgow boxers on their home turf - something no west coast boxer has ever done since to their eastern counterparts.
Indeed, Leith pride Tancy Lee never lost any of his 12 fights in Glasgow against west coast boxers throughout his entire career.
Similarly, in the Edinburgh lightweight joust between Peebles’ James Hall and Hamilton’s Johnny Brown over 20 rounds in Annandale Street’s Industrial Hall - the first ever British and European title clash held in Scotland - Hall triumphed on points.
East boxers’ claims are further boosted by Leith middleweight ace Alex Ireland - winner of Scotland’s first ever Olympic boxing silver medal at Antwerp in 1920 - who triumphed over Craignook, Lanarkshire’s Tommy Milligan by disqualification in Edinburgh’s Waverley Market on March 14, 1928 to take Milligan’s British and European middleweight titles.
Nevertheless, a western boxer, bantamweight Frank Markey, made sure that west coast boxing ended the 1920s on a high by beating Edinburgh’s Johnny Smith in Scotland’s last 20-round title fight in February 1929. And on August 5, 1933 at Portobello’s Marine Gardens Stadium before 7000 fans, Glasgow featherweight Johnny McMillan knocked out Edinburgh’s world-rated featherweight Peter McKinlay (who once took English world champion Jackie ‘Kid’ Berg the distance) in the seventh round.
In the early 1940s ring honours were even between east and west.
Airdrie flyweight Jackie Bryce twice defeated Edinburgh’s Johnny Summers in Scottish title scraps between 1946 and 1947. But Edinburgh bantamweight Eddie Carson ended the illustrious championship career of future coaching legend Charlie Kerr from Glasgow, when Leith Walk cafe owner Carson knocked out Kerr in 11 rounds in 1949 to take Kerr’s Scottish title.
Auld Reekie’s Carson also knocked out Glasgow’s former world champion Jackie Paterson in May 1950, but was himself beaten on points in 1954 by Glasgow bantamweight great Peter Keenan. However, Scotland’s only double outright Lonsdale Belt winner Keenan found Carson so tough that the Edinburgh man was the only opponent to whom Keenan refused to grant a return bout.
The late 1950s saw Edinburgh featherweight Bobby Neill utterly destroy Scott Harrison’s Cambuslang compatriot and predecessor as British featherweight champion Charlie Hill in two bouts.
In April 1959 at Nottingham, Edinburgh’s Neill, having blown away west coast pride Hill inside a round in December 1956, then decked Hill no less than ten times en route to taking his British featherweight and Lonsdale Belt title by a ninth-round stoppage.
However, Hamilton’s British and WBC flyweight champion Walter McGowan, having posted his first professional loss to Edinburgh’s Jackie Brown in 1963 at Paisley, gained revenge in a return bout shortly afterwards against the Edinburgh boxer.
More than 20 years later Edinburgh’s Danny Flynn thrilled 3000 Capital fans on April 6, 1984 at Edinburgh Playhouse by defeating Glasgow’s Jim Harvey in the first round of a Scottish bantamweight title joust.
Nonetheless, if statistics have any bearing on any championship ring clash then ex-Leith Victoria boxer Alex Arthur must be regarded as having an excellent chance of emulating his Leith Victoria predecessor Tancy Lee who never lost to a west coast opponent in Glasgow throughout his career.