Place of Birth - Glasgow
Date of Birth - 2nd April 1913
Passed Away - 6th August 1946
Record - 81 wins (34 KO’s), 12 losses, 15 draws
Greatest Accomplishment - Defeating Peter Kane in a classic contest in defence of the world flyweight title
Lynch was born in a district of Glasgow known as the Gorbals, which was near the River Clyde. It was home to a large number of Catholic immigrants from Ireland and there was a significant Jewish population there too. When he was growing up, it was a somewhat poverty-stricken area filled with tenements and crime was rife. He sold newspapers to earn money.
A photograph of the Gorbals district where Lynch grew up
When he left school he began taking part in boxing booths that were part of carnivals. They were popular at the time and he developed his skills as a spirited scrapper. Good money could be earned in these booths and he was fortunate to be spotted by manager/trainer Sammy Wilson. This led to him turning professional shortly after his 18th birthday, on 24th April 1931. His debut opponent was Young Bryce, who was stopped in the 2nd round. Afterwards, Lynch launched himself into an incredible schedule, often fighting two or three times a month. He lost four decisions in his early bouts but showed considerable promise. It was not until his 62nd fight that he ventured outside of Scotland for the first time when he faced Bert Kirby in West Bromwich on 29th October 1933 and won on points over twelve rounds. He swept through most of his opposition and displayed impressive speed and timing. His popularity grew significantly and he was viewed as a family man, devoted to his wife, Anne, and their sons, Robert and John. Everyone in his neighbourhood knew him and a local fishmonger supplied him with brine in which he could soak his hands to toughen them up. His training regime encompassed a 6-mile run and 15+ rounds of sparring each day.
Lynch in training
He established himself as a leading contender when he outpointed the highly-regarded Valentin Angelmann on 26th September 1934 in Glasgow. The next year, on 4th March 1935, he drew with the reigning world flyweight champion, Jackie Brown, in a non-title fight, also in Glasgow. Brown was recognized as the world champion by the NBA, the British Boxing Board of Control and the IBU (which was the forerunner of the EBU - the European Boxing Union). But most importantly, he was the lineal flyweight champion and had earned that distinction by beating Young Perez of Tunisia on 31st October 1932. Brown was absurdly stripped of IBU recognition for failing to defend against Angelmann, even though he had faced him three times before (which involved a pair of points victories and a draw). Sadly, these title-stripping shenanigans continue to this day.
The Red Tub tearooms which Lynch used as a training base
A Brown-Lynch rematch was a natural and this took place on 9th September, six months after their first encounter, in Brown’s hometown of Manchester, this time with the world title at stake. Lynch fought like a whirlwind and Brown did not see the 3rd round. When the new world champion returned to Glasgow there were thousands of fans waiting to greet him at the train station.
His first defence was against the talented Pat Palmer on 16th September 1936 and not surprisingly was in Glasgow. Lynch prevailed with an 8th round KO and Palmer was never the same again. But a more threatening challenge came from Small Montana, who was based across the Atlantic Ocean in New York City. His real name was Benjamin Gan and he was originally from the Philippines. He had defeated Midget Wolgast and had New York state recognition, but his claim to be the true champ was nowhere near as strong as Lynch’s claim. The Lynch-Montana clash occurred in London on 19th January 1937 and Lynch boxed brilliantly to win a decision. Despite this milestone victory, his best performance was yet to come.
On 13th October the same year, he defended against the superb Peter Kane, who had an eye-catching record of 41-0 (33). Their bout was a classic, featuring plenty of give-and-take action, with Kane finally succumbing in the 13th round. It was a shame that Lynch never reached such a peak again. He was finding it increasingly difficult to make the flyweight limit of 112 lbs and his drinking was getting out of control. His frustration in struggling to make the weight led to more drinking.
Benny Lynch Court in Glasgow which was named in honour of the former champ
On 24th March 1938 he engaged in a rematch with Kane; this was a non-title fight held at bantamweight in Liverpool and the result was a draw. Lynch’s next defence was scheduled to be against the USA’s Jackie Jurich three months later, on 29th June, at an ice rink in Paisley. But Lynch failed to make the weight limit and forfeited his world title. The bout went ahead as a non-title affair and Lynch won with a 12th round KO. His deterioration was rapid after this as he began losing his battle with alcoholism. In London on 3rd October 1938, he was halted in three rounds by Aurel Toma of Romania and his showing was so mediocre that the British Boxing Board of Control revoked his licence.
He was only 25 years old but his professional career was over. He was forced to return to fighting in boxing booths, essentially going back to where he had started. He squandered his money and his wife divorced him. His health worsened through his drinking and he died of malnutrition and respiratory problems in his hometown’s Southern General Hospital.
Lynch never lost the world title in the ring and, interestingly, never fought outside of the UK. At his best he was a match for any flyweight in history and his fabulous accomplishments should never be forgotten.