Bert Gilroy - Britain's Unluckiest Fighter

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Bert Gilroy - Britain's Unluckiest Fighter Empty Bert Gilroy - Britain's Unluckiest Fighter

Post by Rowley on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 11:44 am

Someone was kind enough to give me a biography of Scottish Middleweight Bert Gilroy recently. Got to be honest had not heard of Gilroy prior to being given the book but did a bit of digging online and saw him described as the British Charley Burley and inevitably once I read that I was hooked.

Having now read the book I can see that the billing seems appropriate. As most of us will know there were a lot of fighters who had their careers affected by the world wars. Decent argument to be made that French great George Carpentier lost his best years to world war one and the manner in which the likes of Bivins and Burley were hurt by world war two is by now familiar to most of us.

However having read about Gilroy few can have been hurt/screwed over during this period more than Gilroy. Like many a fighter of the era Gilroy learned his trade in the boxing booths and turned pro in the mid 1930s. Whilst he picked up a couple of losses early in his career by the late 1930’s he had hit his stride and went on an unbeaten run that was to last for some six years. During this period Gilroy earned the Scottish middleweight champion and folk north of the border began to see him as a legitimate threat for British champion, the great Jock McAvoy. Although a title shot was not immediately forthcoming as Gilroy continued to rack up the wins the demand for him to get a shot became too difficult to ignore and eventually Bert was given an eliminator against Norwich fighter Ginger Saad.

Gilroy proved himself the real deal in this fight beating the decent Saad to install himself as mandatory for McAvoy. In fairness to the board of control and McAvoy the fight was scheduled but at this point bad luck struck Gilroy who was injured during his army service and the scheduled fight had to be cancelled. Whilst the doctors told Gilroy he may never fight again through treatment and his own determination Gilroy soon recovered. However if he was to think his recovery would mean the rescheduling of his title shot he was to be sorely disappointed, for reasons not really specified Gilroy found himself on the outside with no indication either McAvoy or the board were in any rush to give him the shot he had rightly earned.

Like his BMR counterparts in the States Gilroy did the only thing he could and continued winning fights. However when it became clear his middleweight shot was not going to materialize he began to tackle the light heavies and soon established himself as national champion in Scotland at that weight. However if he felt a change in weight would lead to a change in his luck he was to be sorely disappointed as British Champion Freddie Mills showed little to no inclination to give Bert his chance.

What should be noted at this point is much like the world championships during the war years a ruling was put in place that meant the champions did not have to take title fights. However title fights did take place during this period and what this often meant in reality is champions could pick and choose who they defended against and avoid those that represented too much risk for too little reward and it appears Gilroy fitted this category of fighter. What also appears to have hurt Gilroy is he lacked powerful promotional contacts. Throughout his career Gilroy was represented by legendary Scottish Promoter Tommy Gilmour. Whilst Gilroy would go on to be a promotional powerhouse at the time he was a young up and comer without the power or influence to take on the likes of Jack Solomans who was for all intents British Boxing at the time. It should also be mentioned that many of the bigger London promoters had tried to buy Gilroy’s contracts early in his career but had been rebuffed by Gilmour who knew just how good Gilroy could be.

It is easy to look back at Gilmour’s situation through modern eyes and underestimate just how important a shot at the British title was. Back in the days of one title per weight and no spurious intercontinental titles the British title actually meant something and was a sure fire way of earning both a world ranking and getting your name heard stateside. Without this ranking and the mass communication we enjoy today Gilroy remained somewhat anonymous on the world stage. Also as Gilroy was conscripted into the army the option of moving to the states and trying his luck there was not really an option as it would have represented desertion.

Towards the end of his career due to the lack of opportunities at middle and light heavy Gilroy began to face heavies with inevitably mixed results. He was even able to secure a non title fight with Mills which ended in farce when Gilroy was stopped on a minor cut whilst miles in front. He also received a fight with French great Marcel Cerdan but due to being forced to cut too much weight too late Cerdan run through him with relative ease. These results late on can perhaps give a false impression of Gilroy’s ability but his record from 1938 to 46 is perhaps more indicative of his true worth when he ran through the best of the domestic middles and light heavies with barely a blip and with the occasional losses he picked up being of the very controversial nature.

Obviously without getting the shot it is always pure speculation but the views of those who saw Gilroy in the flesh certainly thought he was the real deal. Both Benny Lynch and the legendary Jimmy Wilde made him favourite to beat the brilliant but ageing McAvoy and American promotional legend Charley Rose simply said after watching Bert that he had seen the next middleweight champion of the world.

There may have been better British fighters than Gilroy but there can be fewer who got a rougher ride than him. Gilroy was ranked at number one at either middle or light heavy for a full decade and did not receive one title shot.


Last edited by Rowley on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 12:09 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by superflyweight on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 12:03 pm

Temptation to make a Bet Gilroy joke almost too much to bear!

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Post by Rowley on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 12:05 pm

superflyweight wrote:Temptation to make a Bet Gilroy joke almost too much to bear!
Don't do it superfly. You scots have few enough boxing greats, you should not mock the few you have.

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Post by 88Chris05 on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 12:05 pm

Great stuff, Jeff.

Can't say I know a load about Gilroy, aside from the article about him on the Scottish Boxing Hall of Fame site and this quote from Mills, which deals with his first fight against 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 applause, and well he merited it."

I knew that his name became synonymous with accusations of "ducking" (some of it justified, other bits not so) by the leading Middleweights and Light-Heavyweights of Britain, Europe and even the world, but as you've shown digging a little deeper in to his record shows how impressive his peak years were.

Interesting, however, that he's one of only a very small handful of British fighters to be inducted in to the lesser known World Boxing Hall of Fame ahead of many more famous names. I'm pretty sure that Cyber Boxing Zone have an article or two on Gilroy to look out, so will check them out when I get the chance.

Thanks for this, good read.
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Post by Guest on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 12:06 pm

I got confused with the Gilroy/Gilmour thing

It should also be mentioned that many of the bigger London promoters had tried to buy Gilmour’s contracts early in his career but had been rebuffed by Gilmour who knew just how good Gilmour could be.

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Post by Rowley on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 12:08 pm

That is me making an arse of writing it Dave Gilmour is the promoter Gilroy the fighter. Should not try to exercise the brain on a Monday Morning. Will make the necessary edit.

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Post by Guest on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 12:12 pm

I know, I was trying to be nice. Should have got TRUSS to proof read it first!

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Post by superflyweight on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 12:12 pm

Rowley wrote:
superflyweight wrote:Temptation to make a Bet Gilroy joke almost too much to bear!
Don't do it superfly. You scots have few enough boxing greats, you should not mock the few you have.
Indeed - and thanks for the article - great read!

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 2:14 pm

DAVE667 wrote:I know, I was trying to be nice. Should have got TRUSS to proof read it first!
I always like seeing you on threads I'm not interested in....Keep it up..

Bert...Gives me fond memories of Sesame street...

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Post by Guest on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 2:50 pm

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:
DAVE667 wrote:I know, I was trying to be nice. Should have got TRUSS to proof read it first!
I always like seeing you on threads I'm not interested in....Keep it up..

Bert...Gives me fond memories of Sesame street...
Sad little overweight stalker that you are TRUSS, it's nice to know you're keeping yourself amoob of my whereabout of the forum

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 3:05 pm

Less of the "little".

I find your posts fascinating If truth be told........Like reading Themistius..

and other Greek tragedies..

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Post by Guest on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 3:06 pm

Whereas I find you more Dan Brown... generally prone to well deserved criticism and ridicule

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 3:07 pm

He's hard to put down as well.........


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Post by Rowley on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 3:17 pm

TRUSSMAN66 wrote:He's hard to put down as well.........

And just like Brown nobody likes to admit they enjoy him really.

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Post by Guest on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 3:18 pm

I'm sure plenty of people can't believe the sh!te he writes either.

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Post by md_fan on Tue 03 Sep 2013, 12:50 am

Classic Dave - superb timing!

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