AN undisputed world flyweight champion who learnt his trade by performing in the travelling boxing booths (carnivals) throughout the west of Scotland, Benny Lynch was widely recognised as the best fighter below the lightweight ranks around the mid-late thirties.
Born on April 2, 1913 and raised in the tough, poverty stricken Gorbals district of Glasgow, Lynch was paid five shillings by the local booth owner, who regularly featured him on his roving shows. The 5ft 4in pocket-rocket gradually worked his way up the boxing ladder, earning fights at the small halls around the city.
In his first three years as a professional boxer, Benny fought over sixty times, losing only a handful of bouts. At only 21 years of age, he outpointed Jim Campbell to become the new Scottish flyweight king. He repeated this result just over a month later in a rematch.
Continued success saw him earn a shot at world flyweight boss Jackie Brown, although the Mancunian’s coveted strap was not on the line. The pair battled to a draw; a result which helped Lynch to secure another crack at his British compatriot. In September 1935, the fighters met again. This time, however, Brown’s British and World flyweight belts were up for grabs.
In the defending champion’s hometown of Manchester, the 22-year-old Benny put in a scintillating performance to wrest the titles from his opponent’s grasp. A Tartan army of Scottish fans travelled down to England to witness their favourite son floor Jackie on several occasions, en route to an exceptional second round stoppage victory. Despite his small stature, the Glaswegian possessed devastating punch power; something which Brown found out first hand.
After becoming his country’s first ever world champion, the slick footed Scotsman was more than happy to indulge in a celebratory drink or two. Unfortunately, his fondness for alcohol would eventually prove to be his downfall, both in the sport and in his life.
Following a successful defence against Pat Palmer (w ko 8), Lynch challenged NYSAC world fly ruler Small Montana in January 1937 for the right to be recognised as the undisputed world champion in the division.
With overseas opinion largely divided on who would come out on top in the contest, Benny settled the dispute once and for all with a points win over his Filipino rival at Wembley’s Empire Pool. With years of greatness seemingly ahead of the 23-year-old, the dark force of alcoholism started to creep further into his life.
In March 1937, an overweight Lynch suffered an embarrassing non-title defeat to Len Hampston. The former British bantamweight title challenger dropped the Gorbals man on multiple occasions before claiming a disqualification victory. Despite stopping Hampston in a rematch just three weeks later, Benny’s drink demons were still circling him ominously.
In a title defence against the hard hitting Peter Kane, Lynch put in his final great performance by knocking his opponent out in the 13th session in front of 40,000 fans in Glasgow. After drawing with Kane in a rematch in Liverpool, Benny was scheduled to defend his world championship against Jackie Jurich in June 1938. However, although the contest went ahead and Lynch secured a 12th round knockout, he was forced to relinquish his belt as he failed to make the weight limit.
A move up to bantamweight saw the former flyweight titlist suffer the one and only knockout defeat of his career against Aurel Toma. It would turn out to be his final ring appearance.
Following his retirement at 25 years of age, Lynch began to drink even more excessively, which eventually lead to malnutrition and a tragically premature death eight years later.