SEPTEMBER 2006


01 | Rinsing Off the Mouthpiece
By GorDoom

02 | Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario

03 | Pollack's Picks
By Adam Pollack

04 | Top Women Worth Watching
and Televising

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
By Thomas Gerbasi

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
By Katherine Dunn

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, England?

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, Bert Gilroy.

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 route, KO.

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 merited it."

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 favorite!"

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 pair meet."

Frank Butler: "Bert Gilroy is probably the cleverest middleweight in the country."

Malcolm Turner: "Gilroy was ahead at the close, an unsatisfactory ending, [Gilroy vs. Mills]."

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 Contender.

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 cmoyle@aol.com or visit www.prizefightingbooks.com.

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