Benny Lynch was generally considered one of the finest boxers below lightweight in the pre-Second World War era, and is generally regarded as one of the greatest fighters ever to come out of Great Britain. Standing only at 5'5'', Lynch was born in the deprived immigrant area of the Gorbals in Glasgow, Scotland in 1913, and turned pro in 1931 at 18 years old.
His early boxing experiences were played out in the arduous environment of travelling booths (carnivals) which were a popular form of entertainment at the time throughout the West of Scotland. It was on this circuit which he developed his formidable boxing skills. Lynch also possessed awesome punching power, which is seldom found in flyweights before or since.
"Our Benny" was a man of the people and developed into one of the biggest attractions in the history of the division, and was fiercely popular in his home country. On 16th May 1934 he won the Scottish flyweight title with a 15-round decision over Jim Campbell in Glasgow. A rematch with Campbell a month later ended with the same result. He continued this prolific form and went 20-0-1 in 1934 and into 1935.
In March 1935, he drew with British and European flyweight king Jackie Brown, which set up a showdown with Brown six months later with Brown's titles at stake for the rematch. Brown was also recognised in Europe at the time as the legitimate world champion.
The bout took place on 8th September 1935 in Manchester, England. It was a major road trip for Scottish boxing fans, but they employed every means possible to get there for the event and they were not to be disappointed, as Lynch scored six knockdowns en route to a second-round stoppage. He had seven non-title fights in 1936, winning all but one which was put down to a lack of application on his part.
There was dispute, at least on one side of the Atlantic, as to who was the best flyweight boxer in the world. Lynch, however, wasted little time in settling the matter when he out-pointed Philipino Small Montana in London for to established himself as the undisputed world flyweight boxing champion.
From 1932-36, he lost just two fights; both of them were points losses to Jim Warnock from Northern Ireland, in 1936 and again in 1937. Lynch won a Lonsdale belt outright by defeating Pat Palmer in eight rounds and Peter Kane in 13 rounds.
The Kane fight was particularly punishing for both pugilists. Kane, who would dominate the division after the premature departure of Lynch, gave the champ a formidable test of skill and stamina. By this time, however, Lynch was also beginning to lose a career-long battle with the scales.
By 1938, Benny's unconventional lifestyle meant that he could no longer make the weight for the division. He drew with Kane in a non-title bout in March. Two months later for a flyweight title defence with American Jackie Jurich, Lynch weighed in at 118.5, a half a pound over the bantamweight limit. Although the fight took place, Lynch was stripped of the title before it had even started - an unexpected event which lost him considerable affection with his formerly strongly loyal support.
It was made even sadder by the fact that, despite his weight problems, Lynch produced a creditable performance and stopped the American in the 12th round. For himself, his trainer and his fans it was a particularly bittersweet moment which Lynch himself never seemed to recover from.
His sad life of alcohol and lifestyle problems persisted. He lost a 12-round decision to Kayo Morgan on the 28th September 1938, and a week later was knocked out for the first and last time in his career by a contender who would never have been able to share a ring with him just a year earlier, Aurel Toma, in Round 3.
At the age of 25 - when a fighter should be approaching the prime of his career and seeking the rewards of all his efforts - his final fight in the ring.
Benny Lynch had health problems the rest of his life as he battled with the disease we now recognise as alcoholism. He suffered an agonisingly lonely end to a life which had shone so brightly for such a short time.
He died of malnutrition in 1946 at age 33.