BLETHER: Boxer Tancy Lee also a candidate

Tancy Lee

Roy Morris said he “enjoyed the reference to Johnny Hill” in a recent issue.

We highlighted the claim that Johnny was Scotland’s first world boxing champion in 1928 but were aware there are other candidates.

Roy, from Arbroath, continued: “There is a much stronger candidate for recognition as Scotland’s first world boxing champion.

“His name is Tancy Lee, from Leith.

“At one time, I intended to write his story (to add to an unpublished one about Aberdeen’s Deaf Burke, and another about our own Freddie Tennant).

“It never quite happened.

“However, I gathered enough information to convince the powers-that-be of Tancy’s claim.

“ I had an article published in 1989’s British Boxing Yearbook to that effect.”

Roy continued: “Tancy’s right to be regarded as a world champion has been a bit lost in time.

“Along with Johnny Hill and Elky Clark (who emerged between them), they were all over- shadowed by the legend of Benny Lynch, as has Jackie Paterson, who came along later.”

Roy let me have a look at his story on the birth of the flyweight division.

He went on:”It is somewhat complicated. But it is important as the number of boxers of that weight in the UK was phenomenal — and continued to be so right up to the 1950s.”

Originally from England, Roy has lived in the Angus town for over 50 years.

He revealed: “I was friendly with Jim Manderson, contemporary of many of the fine Dundee boxers of the 1930s, such as Freddie Tennant, Jim Brady, Mickey Summers, Jim Cowie (Tayport), to name but a few.

“However, Deaf Burke was probably the first boxer to become popular in the city.

“I once researched one of Burke’s opponents called Harold Ratchford, who was also popular in Dundee. I traced over 300 official contests but probably there were even more! Many bouts were over 20 rounds and sometimes two or three in a week. That was typical of the bravery, dedication and, yes, even foolhardiness of these sportsmen from another age.”

Tancy Lee was born in Paisley in 1882 and was an active boxer from 1906-26. Records have him fighting from 1910 and, in January 1915, he faced Jimmy Wilde, at the time unbeaten in over 90 fights (according to some sources 103), for the vacant British, European, and IBU World titles at the National Sporting Club. Lee stopped him in the 17th round to become triple champion.

He declared to the Weekly News: “I’ve won the first Lonsdale Belt for Scotland. I have beaten the hitherto undefeated Jimmy Wilde and, today, I am flyweight champion of the entire world!”

However, he lost the British and World titles nine months later to Joe ‘Young’ Symonds. In February 1916, Lee beat Johnny Best to take the Scottish bantamweight title. Four months later, he faced Wilde for the British, European, and World flyweight titles, Wilde stopping him in the 11th round.

Deaf Burke was actually born Hendry Byres in Aberdeen in 1901. At the age of five, he suffered an attack of the measles, which impaired his hearing, hence the nickname. His manager then gave him the surname of 1830s bare-knuckle boxer James Burke, who had been hard of hearing.

It was also prevalent at the time for boxers, who were perhaps receiving benefits, to box under a name other than their own.