Hall of Fame beckons for ring legend Neill

EDINBURGH ring legend Bobby Neill can look forward to one of his best-ever birthday presents - induction into the Scottish Boxing Hall of Fame when he turns 71 on October 9.

Boxing Hall of Fame chief official Jan Mack said: "Bobby was ecstatic when we told him that he had been voted into this year’s intake of boxing hall of famers - especially as it will be his birthday on the same day."

Now living in London, ex-Trinity Academy schoolboy Neill was arguably Britain’s answer to American coaching legend Angelo Dundee. After all, Neill coached two of only three British boxers to win undisputed world crowns in the USA in the 20th century, welterweight Lloyd Honeyghan and middleweight Alan Minter.

With the latter beating Italian-American Vito Antuofermo in Las Vegas in 1980 and Honeyghan triumphing over Donald Curry in 1986 in Atlantic City.

Add to that Neill guiding world rated boxers like bantamweight Alan Rudkin and Edinburgh featherweight Vernon Sollas and you can understand why he has been elected to Scottish boxing’s pantheon of immortal ring heroes.

Neill will become the second ex-Sparta boxer to attain Hall of Fame status after world lightweight champion Ken Buchanan was inducted two years ago.

Current Sparta official George Forsyth acclaimed Neill’s induction saying: "Bobby Neill’s achievements as a Sparta boxer have never been forgotten.

"He was the first Sparta bred boxer to win the British Boxing Writers Best Young Boxer of the Year Award [in 1957] and showed he hadn’t forgotten our part in his rise by coming up from London in October 1995 to be Guest of Honour at our 50th anniversary dinner. Bobby Neill personifies the fighting spirit and boxing skills that we at the present Sparta Club try to teach all our young boxers."

In 1951, aged 18 and while returning from a Sparta training session, Neill was run down by a motorcycle and suffered a career threatening shattered hip. But Neill battled back to star for Scotland’s international squad 18 months later.

In 1957, having won that Best Young Boxer of the Year Award he was seriously injured in a car crash at a roundabout in Newbridge.

Told that he would never box again by surgeons who had shortened one of his legs, he stormed back to win the British featherweight title and Lonsdale Belt by dropping Cambuslang’s Charlie Hill to the canvas ten times en route to stopping Hill in round nine in April 1959.

But still bad fortune wasn’t finished with Neill. In November 1960 in London Neill clashed with ex-1956 Olympic flyweight gold medal winner Terry Spinks whom he had previously beaten.

However on this occasion, after being KO’ed by Londoner Spinks in round 14, Neill collapsed in his dressingroom and was only saved from death by an operation to remove a blood clot on the brain.

Yet, within five years Edinburgh’s never-say-die Neill had embarked on the road to glory as a world class ring coach and cornerman.

Meanwhile Sparta boss Forsyth is cock-a-hoop after landing the right to promote the Eastern District Amateur Boxing Championships in Edinburgh’s Meadowbank Stadium on Sunday, November 28.

However, Forsyth is seeking sponsors for this major local championship event and can be contacted on 077 360 97466.

Orders for tickets, priced 8 for adults and 4 for juniors, can be placed via the same number.