Born May 10th 1918 - Died June 2nd
119 - 86 wins (44ko’s), 25 losses, 8 draws.
6 year 41 fight winning streak, mid-1937 - 43
(of the losses,12 were suffered in his first 4 years, his novice years, and of the remain 13 losses, 7 of them met with “documented” question or controversy in either decision or circumstances as did 3 of his draws).
In his 1959 autobiography “Box On” Top International Boxing Referee, Eugene Henderson (Randolph Turpin vs. Sugar Ray Robinson 1), wrote of Airdrie born, but Coatbridge based Bert Gilroy. The Coatbridge stylist was, in my opinion the “unluckiest” champion that ever was. He was affected by the war more than any other boxer I knew, for just approaching his peak in 1939, he never recaptured it once he went into the services.
Bert Gilroy was also one of the gamest boxers ever to enter a boxing ring, given that he was only 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed around 12 stones 3 pounds yet still willing to challenge a peak form British heavyweight Champion like Bruce Woodcock, twice.
Born in Airdrie in 1918 of Italian Parentage (real name Rea), Bert came steeped in boxing, with brother Ernie going on to become a successful local boxing promoter in western Scotland. Bert began boxing aged 15 in 1933 and soon won lots of fans due to his punch power and the stylish boxing methods that captured the admiration of top Scottish Boxing Referee Eugene Henderson. Inside the ropes too, the Gilroy ring trademarks of style and punch power soon brought dividends.
In 1938 Bert became Scottish middleweight Champion by out pointing tough- game, Tommy Smith over fifteen rounds. In his first Scottish title defence against fellow Coatbridge challenger Johnny Clements on June 4th 1939 Bert won in the 13th round against his fellow townsman and if it wasn’t Bert’s most satisfying victory the same couldn’t be said of his next significant victory over Arthur “Ginger” Saad of Norwich.
“Ginger” Saad came to the contest against Bert Gilroy in Newcastle in 1940 as a ten rounds points conqueror of future World light-heavyweight Champion, the Bournemouth Lion Freddie Mills, who paid tribute to Saad’s clever boxing skills after their 1939 ring joust. Yet in this British middleweight title eliminator Bert Gilroy proved himself the better boxer winning the bout over ten rounds to secure a “title” tilt at the crown then worn by famed “Rochdale Thunderbolt” Jock McAvoy.
However fate proved a fickle promoter for although a date was fixed for his title bout against fierce hitting McAvoy, Bert never kept his ring appointment due to an illness which seriously affected Bert, landing the Coatbridge ring stylist in a Military Hospital where it was confidently predicted that Bert would “never” box again.
However those Army medics reckoned without the famous Gilroy fighting spirit. For not only did Bert resume boxing in 1941, but he went on to win a second Scottish title in March 1945 by out pointing Jock McCusker for the vacant Scottish light-heavyweight title in Glasgow.
Again, when offered a bout with future French World middleweight Champion Marcel Cerdan 1947, Bert didn’t flinch (drying-out to make weight, 48 hrs without food or water), and gave a typically game performance against the man who would take American great Tony Zales’ World Crown. Against Cerdan Bert lost by a 4th round kayo.
Bert Gilroy was another of the “have gloves fight anybody school,” and further proof of this can be gleaned by Bert accepting an offer to box future World light-heavyweight kingpin, Freddie Mills at London’s Queensberry Club in February 1944. Freddie Mills verdict on Bert Gilroy; “Bert proved to be a very game and clever opponent although, after opening his eye in the first round, I put him down for a count of nine. He came back full of heart, and try as I would, I just could not put him away he was just far too clever.”
Praise indeed and it should also be remembered that when he fought Freddie Mills that February evening in 1944 London, Bert Gilroy was more used to victory than defeat. By the end of 1944, Bert Gilroy had fought 93 contests of which he had lost only 18 against 67 victories and 8 draws.
Since “coming into his own”, as they say, mid-1937, Bert Gilroy would only suffer 13 losses out of his next 85 fights and 7 of them met with “documented” question or controversy in either decision or circumstances!
Little wonder then, that Freddie Mills summed up his scrap with Coatbridge ace Gilroy thus; “it was Bert who got the bigger share of applause and well he merited it” (Gilroy was ahead, pts at the close). Bert also fought big Ken Shaw, twice in close battles for the Scottish heavyweight title. And in his last year was out-pointed by the famed tough British heavyweight Champion Don Cockell, who would later challenge the great Rocky Marciano for the World heavyweight Title!
Style, gameness, punch, toughness Bert had them all, as a third place leading contender for Freddie Mills’ British light-heavyweight title, by the now defunct British boxing magazine “Gladiator” in 1950 (No.1 - 1939-48), seventeen years after turning Pro in 1933.
As that fine connoisseur of ring warriors Eugene Henderson said;
“but for the second world war, Bert Gilroy could have well won a World Title!”
“excepts from the Scotsman, June 1998”
Brian Donald, Scottish Boxing Historian.
Amendments and record “stats” edited by
Author/ Researcher Jim Glen,
“Gilroy was here!”
Fame at last for
The memory of one of
Scotland's most successful, yet
largely unrecognised, boxers is to
be preserved at the World Boxing
Hall of Fame in Los Angeles.