Pat Clinton crowned champion of the world

Pat Clinton celebrates with his world flyweight championship belt at the Kelvin Hall. Picture: Jeff Mitchell
Pat Clinton celebrates with his world flyweight championship belt at the Kelvin Hall. Picture: Jeff Mitchell
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Hugh Keevins sees Croy flyweight outlast Isidro Perez

The Scotsman, 19 March 1992

SCOTLAND was last night reunited with its illustrious past in the world flyweight division when Pat Clinton of Croy took the WBO version of the title from the holder, the Mexican, Isidro Perez. The two American judges and a third, from Denmark, awarded Clinton the title on a split decision after 12 compelling rounds in the Kelvin Hall which brought both boxers apparently to the brink of exhaustion. Clinton, in only his 20th professional fight, was therefore able to join a glamorous list of previous Scottish flyweight champions at world level, dating from Benny Lynch and taking in Jackie Paterson and Walter McGowan, the last man to hold the title from Scotland.

Perez, who was having his 60th fight and fifth defence of his title, believed he had done enough to win. However, every xenophobic trick in the book, from kitting out Clinton in the City of Glasgow’s tartan to the singing of O Flower of Scotland by Ronnie Browne, was tried and found to be in the local man’s favour. It had seemed at one stage as if Clinton had risen to the bait thrown in by the Mexican by allowing the champion to come forward and score with telling left hooks. The passionate backing of the capacity crowd of 2,500 in the Kelvin Hall arena seemed only to help convince Clinton that this was the right thing to do.

In the end, though, a solitary man kept his composure and was able to build a bridge between the past and present in terms of Scottish boxing history. It was a gritty victory for Clinton, who was chased for the entire 12 rounds by the durable little Mexican. Danish judge Torben Hansen scored the fight 116-113 in favour of the champion but Bob Watson from Michigan scored the contest 115-113 with Frank Brunette of New Jersey making it even closer at 115-114 for the Scot. Clinton spent the entire contest back-pedalling but his crisp jabs found their target. Perez, who had branded the Scot “a dirty fighter” in the psychological warfare beforehand, was then made to pay for that slur. The Mexican’s aggression helped him to build an early lead in the opening couple of rounds as Clinton tried to size up the quality of the opposition.

By the third round, his superior ring craft was beginning to shine through and, for the first time, Perez’s shots were only hitting thin air. The Mexican enjoyed the best of the exchanges in the middle part of the fight and by the ninth, it looked as if the title might be destined to stay in Central America. But, at that stage, Clinton found a new lease of life and showed he was prepared to trade punches with the title holder. The tenth was the best round of the fight and it was where Clinton found his self-belief. The Scot put everything into the closing two rounds and danced a jig of joy around the ring when the verdict was announced.

Clinton now becomes the third Scotsman in 1992 to claim a title. The year began with Joe Kelly taking the British bantamweight championship and was carried on by Garry Jacobs’ assumption of the welterweight crown. Perez had earlier in the day needed to come back to the scales on four separate occasions in order to make the weight. At first, he was found to be one pound over the eight-stone maximum and then spent two hours in heavy training gear and sweat suits to rid himself of the excess condition.

Clinton’s manager, Tommy Gilmour, wondered afterwards what psychological effect that irregular preparation for the fight might have had on Perez in the closing stages. In spite of having been to places that Clinton has yet to visit in the ring over the course of a 13-year professional career, the Mexican began to lose the fight in the latter rounds and there was a particularly emotional moment when the Scottish boxer’s brother, Michael, showed Clinton a photograph of his family as he prepared to come out for the 11th round. It was sufficient to drive Clinton towards the championship he had felt was always his destiny. In 20 professional fights, he has lost only once after having been the undefeated British and European champion. The outcome of last night’s contest will be worth a considerable amount of money to Clinton and his management will now attempt to bring him an even more glamorous opponent to Glasgow and to an even bigger venue.

Earlier in the evening at the Kelvin Hall, Joe Kelly, from Glasgow, had beaten the Welshman, Kevin Jenkins after a bruising, non-title contest.

It seemed more than Kelly needed, in fact, six weeks before the first defence of his crown, against another Scotsman, Drew Docherty. Chris McAdam was knocked out in the second round of his contest by the Englishman, Nigel Bradley. In spite of that result, O Flower of Scotland was able to close the evening’s boxing by leaving a heady perfume in the arena after Pat Clinton, the new champion, had departed the ring.