01 | Rinsing Off the
02 | Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario
03 | Pollack's Picks
By Adam Pollack
Top Women Worth Watching
By Adam Pollack
05 | Tournament
of Champions: Boxing's Lineal Mathematics
By Cliff Rold
06 | Roberto Duran, Unplugged
By Juan C. Ayllon
07 | Appreciating Chuck
08 | Thistle in the Rose
By James Glen
09 | Anton "The Sheik" Greek
By Jerry Fitch
10 | Interview with Don Fraser
By Juan C. Ayllon
11 | Boxing's Good Book [PDF]
By Don Cogswell
12 | "John L. Sullivan: The Career
of the First Gloved Heavyweight Champion" [PDF]
By Adam Pollack
13 | Three Book Reviews
14 | What's in a Name?
By Ted Sares
15 | Audio
From the Archives [mp3]
The CBZ presents another classic boxing-themed radio
show. This month we bring you an episode of Duffy's Tavern ("Where the elite meet to eat"), from
April 13, 1951, starring Maxie Rosenbloom.
"Thistle in the Rose"
Bert Gilroy: The Charley Burley of the UK
By JAMES GLEN
June 10, 1940, "What night was it?" Was it an allied allegiance of the dark forces that
swept across the European continent causing terror? Was it an evening a short time
thereafter, from the September 1939 night of the bombing blitz on England, as the same
dark forces attempted to wrought destruction on it's closest, most powerful enemy,
The Rose that is England, Great Britain and the Empire, and what a proud Rose it was too,
with its rich military, political and developing power she was indeed the Rose!
Was it a special night on American shores as she, America cautiously, and I dare say
strategically, opted for non-involvement in these foreign affairs? Yet with her
ever-present eye she was no sleeping giant!
What night was it then, that all of these looming realities and alarming factors would not
be present this June 10 evening? Well, June 10, 1940, was very present; it came and went
as all of these looming certainties did along with it, but that which we speak of,
a "threat" in it's own right passed uneventful -- in fact, it never came to pass at all!
The morale of the people had to be maintained, and a wise and "conscientious" British
government wanted to encourage as much a level of normality as could be expected under
such times as these worrisome war filled days would allow.
Britain enjoyed such a rich sporting history and that too of arts and entertainment as
well. These must continue, and indeed as this founding nation of both football and boxing
as we know them, these otherwise favorite spectator events went on indeed.
It is of course boxing that we speak of, the Noble Art, the Sweet Science, and on this
night of June 10, 1940, two of Britain's greatest ring warriors were to embark in a war of
their own! The prize, the coveted Lord Lonsdale belt, one of the most sought after and
prestigious trophies in all of sporting history. Its current holder, the feared,
devastating puncher, the Rochdale Thunderbolt, Jock McAvoy, and his worthy opponent, the
new kid on the block the noted Scots-Italian and middleweight champion,
While McAvoy has already enjoyed International success, Bert Gilroy has developed the same
prestigious crown that Mac, along with many other boxing greats and legends wear, that of
most-feared and avoided fighters. Bert came to national attention in late 1937 and only
modest international recognition on January 1, 1938, with his quick-fire KO destruction of
top British light-heavyweight contender, world-class Scottish champion Tommy Henderson in
the second round.
From that moment forward, and at the beginning of what would go on to be a 41-fight
winning streak against top British contenders, Bert Gilroy was already being pitted
against the fearsome McAvoy as the new British champion and a potential world champion.
McAvoy and fellow fighters would try, not too quickly, to get involved with Bert Gilroy.
McAvoy could afford to wait, while others had to face the noise that was Gilroy and Bert
also a first-class boxer disposed of them quite nicely and most of them by the short
If you have ever listened to a great person speak about his life, a life that is
repeatedly loaded with thrill and adventure, as though there was no end to the experiences
that were possible to one human being, then you'll understand what it's like to admire,
honor and idolize the prizefighter!
And not just any prizefighter, either, but a champion and a fighter that was too good for
his own good as the saying goes, so good that is, he was blatantly denied his right and
place as a leading historical sports figure. Well, for those of us who understand the
plight of the prizefighter, we are more privy to the knowledge that this great sport as it
is most often thought of, is not a sport at all, but more aptly a business and like many a
thriving business, not always by the most noble of practices.
By the short route, that's a laugh! There would be no shortcut or side roads for
Scotland's Bert Gilroy. No, that crucial and climactic night would actually continue into
a plateau that would indeed last another eight years, and history would witness Gilroy
compete and win most his next 75 fights against names that got into the history books, if
only by protection and not just excellence alone.
Names like the aforementioned Jock McAvoy, Freddie Mills, heavyweights Bruce Woodcock and
Don Cockell, middleweights Vince Hawkins and the legendary Frenchman Marcel Cerdan, more
noted heavyweights in Ken Shaw, Johnny DeVilliers, and Stephan Olek, and complete
avoidance from his own weight class by fighters like Ernie Roderick, Dick Turpin, and
Dick's younger brother, up-and-coming future world middleweight champion Randolph Turpin.
Historical names indeed, and yet all of them ran, hide, negotiated terms, or were
protected from the thorny Thistle, that was Scotland's best big-man, Bert Gilroy.
I came to know Bert Gilroy in 1987, and everything about him, during that year living and
working alongside of him as we would help out at his daughter's chip shop every morning a
couple of hours before opening time at lunch. Prior to that, he was just my grandfather
Tony Rea, his real name, and although we've known his story all our lives, in our own
selfish youth and ignorance we didn't know fully the facts, the period or the
circumstances surrounding his great and disheartened career.
But like people everywhere, you grow up and discover the value of life, the things in life
you love and those who share the same interests and passions as yourself.
So to eventually love the noble art and its history in my case was equally an awakening to
the man who used to bounce me on his knee, wipe my snotty nose, and frighten the hell out
of me in fun and games as only a granddad or father could. I soon realized there were a
lot more, and greater than me he frightened the hell out of and in high places too.
Bert Gilroy in his own words, and what I understand is more a British phrase was
"shut-out." The American phrase, and a more common expression in the sport, is "frozen
out." Bert Gilroy was frozen out, denied and cheated of his rightful title fight at both
middleweight and light-heavyweight for the coveted Lord Lonsdale Belt.
The Champions, "Rochdale Thunderbolt," Jock McAvoy, himself denied a shot at the world
middleweight title, yet allowed a hypocritical attempt at the world's light-heavyweight
title held by all-time great John Henry Lewis. Freddie Mills, the next great bearer of the
British light-heavyweight title, would possessively hold that title for eight long years,
1942 to 1950, without ever making a single defense of the title, yet go on to win the
world title at the same weight.
Two scraps against a giant of a man, Bruce Woodcock No. 3 contender, Joe Louis' division.
A drying-out, dead at the weight negotiated fight with the legend that is Marcel Cerdan,
downright suicide and in his last year 1949, a pop at the young light-heavyweight cum
heavyweight sensation, champion Don Cockell of Rocky Marciano fame.
More heavyweight battles for the man that stood 5-foot-9 and weighed anywhere from one to
two stone (14 pounds to 28 pounds) lighter, and inches shorter than his heavyweight
opponents, he would know many victories among quality noted fighters and defeats by the
top men in the division. Not all "straight defeats," either!
To know this man, Bert Gilroy's career and facts, it is nowhere near complete to look
solely at his record, but rather listen to the words of the man himself, the equally
truthful words of his gallant opponents and the recorded voices of those great writers who
'scribed' the events before us and for us:
Bert Gilroy on Jock McAvoy: "I was a strong favorite to beat him and I chased him
from 1938 to 1945, with the crucial years being 1938 to 1943. McAvoy's rush-in style was
tailor-made for my own boxing style and ability."
Jock McAvoy on Bert Gilroy: "They (BBB of C), won't let me defend my title and the
bigger men won't have any part of me. I've been following the progress of the middleweight
contenders, and I feel the Scottish champion Bert Gilroy is the one most likely to take
the title given the right chance."
Bert Gilroy on Freddie Mills: "Most of the judges and reporters had me ahead that
night, Freddie cut me in the first round, afterward in the eighth when he landed a bomb on
the referee, a minute later the referee stopped the fight, I was ahead on points. He was
the strongest man [physically], I ever fought."
Freddie Mills on Bert Gilroy: "Try as I would, I just could not put him away. He
was just far too clever. It was Bert who got the bigger share of the applause, and well he
Bert Gilroy on Bruce Woodcock: "There was very little between us in our first
fight, in fact I took the first three rounds, he was just too big and he would lean on me
in close quarters, push down on my shoulders, and elbow my forearms trying to create an
opening, he caught me with good uppercuts and short hooks. When Woodcock hit you it was
like getting hit by a fuckin' freight train!"
Bruce Woodcock on Bert Gilroy: "I was sorry this second fight with Gilroy ended so
soon, Bert Gilroy was such a scientific boxer, I wanted to learn more from him."
Bert Gilroy on Marcel Cerdan: "Cerdan was good, all right, but I know I could have
given him a better showing if it wasn't for drying out [making weight). How would Cerdan
have done if he fought the same big men I fought?"
Bert Gilroy on Don Cockell: "If he could have remained at light-heavyweight, he
might have been a world champion. I was at the end of my career when we fought he was just
coming into top contention."
Bert Gilroy on Randolph Turpin: "He was just starting out as a pro as I was
rounding out my last few years, I was still in contention, and I couldn't get a fight with
either one of them, Randy or Dick. Dick was there with me through the whole of our
careers. Given the chance, I think McAvoy or myself would have been Britain's first world
middleweight champions before Randy Turpin."
Bert Gilroy on Ernie Roderick: "I was the only top middleweight contender he
wouldn't fight, as he was manipulating his way into the middleweight title scene, he was
chosen over me to fight Ginger Sadd -- 1942, who I beat in the first place in a final
eliminator for the British middleweight title."
Bert Gilroy on Bert Gilroy: "They shut me out! I probably fought more heavyweights
than any British middleweight. I believe I am Scotland's longest champion, and I was
widely reported to be British champion and a world champion if not for the war!"
Charley Rose: "I have seen the next middleweight champion of the world!"
Jimmy Wilde: "Bert Gilroy is an excellent boxer and should come out a starting
Elky Clarke: "Bert Gilroy has everything that goes into the making of a champion:
skill, stamina, and punching power."
Ring magazine, March 1940: "Bert Gilroy would not be averse in fighting Fred
Apostili, Solly Krieger, or Ceferino Garcia."
Norman Hurst: "McAvoy will have to fight well and hard to retain his title when the
Frank Butler: "Bert Gilroy is probably the cleverest middleweight in the country."
Malcolm Turner: "Gilroy was ahead at the close, an unsatisfactory ending, [Gilroy
Eugene Henderson: [Turpin vs. Robinson] "But for the second world war, Bert Gilroy
could have well won a world title!"
I've learned a lot from Bert Gilroy the fighter, more
than I learned from Tony Rea, my grandfather, I learned that you can never truly know a man
unless you take the time too, and even then you can never truly know the prizefighter
unless you've laced up the gloves yourself!
Bert Gilroy faced some of the toughest opposition the sport could ever provide, yet he
faced more anguish and regret at the hands of those who ran the business of boxing only to
suffer the unquenching ignominy of the perpetual "if."
A 19-year-old boy at the top of his game or an 80-year-old man at the end of his life, the
story and facts, no matter how many times you go over them never change! A life less
ordinary, destined for greatness and yet we will never fully know!
What I can say is: Why should I even consider to say anything less than that which has
already been documented, reported, and proven; you, Mr. Gilroy, have earned your place
among the greats and share that most noted crown of "Feared and Avoided fighter," and your
ring prowess and achievements have not been in vain, as you are still unarguably the No. 1
James Glen is an author and a contributing writer to the Cyber Boxing Zone. His book, Gilroy Was Here is
printed in Great Britain by Copy Tech UK limited. Copyright
GlenMac, 2004. 236 pp. Illustrated Softcover. To purchase a copy, contact Clay Moyle at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit