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Jackie Paterson: World Champion 1943

Jackie Paterson

Boxing News

While fans of Scottish boxing were dismayed at the demise of former world flyweight champion Benny Lynch's career, they soon had a new hero and world champion at the same weight in the sturdy little form of Jackie Paterson.

Like his predecessor, Paterson was to enjoy sporting success and fame, but he too had his demons. He had an addiction to gambling on the greyhounds and a craving for alcohol when he retired from the ring.

Jackie Paterson was born in Springside in Ayrshire on 5 September 1920. His family emigrated to Scranton, Pennsylvania eight years later, but Paterson came home from the States as a teenager to work at John Brown shipyards on the Clyde, and then as a butcher.

Paterson fought for a short time as an amateur, having joined the Anderston Club in Glasgow at the age of 13. He turned professional at just 17, his first pro fight being staged in Greenock on 26 May 1938 when he beat Joe Kiely in 10 rounds.

He lost just one of his next 17 bouts in 1938 and 1939, fighting mostly in Glasgow but also travelling to cities such as Belfast, Newcastle and Dundee as he toured the pro circuit and built up an impressive record.

Jackie Paterson's style was to give scores of opponents a troublesome time. As a southpaw, he led with his right, but he was capable of knocking an opponent out with this hand too. His most potent weapon, though, was his venomous left hook. It is striking, looking at photos of the fighter, just how broad he was for a flyweight, making it none too surprising that he often struggled to make the eight stone limit, and predictable that the bantamweight limit of 8 stone 6 pounds was to become his more natural fighting weight.

On 30 September 1939, under barrage balloons in an open-air bout in Glasgow, Paterson fought the northern area champion Paddy Ryan for the vacant British Flyweight title. In the 13th round the referee decided Ryan had taken enough punishment from the Scot. He ended the fight and Paterson had won his first major belt.

While this title should have provided Paterson with a healthy income, the promoter George Dingley hadn't lodged enough of a bond with the British Boxing Board of Control. With the outbreak of war, the crowd was lower than it would otherwise have been and so the purse promised to Paterson never quite materialised.

Almost six months later, in March 1940, Paterson added the vacant Commonwealth Flyweight title to his collection, defeating Kid Tanner in Manchester. He notched up another seven straight wins at flyweight that year, and on 3 February 1941 in Nottingham gave Paddy Ryan a rematch, putting his British and Commonwealth titles up for grabs. Ryan lasted just eight rounds this time with the hard-hitting Paterson.

Jackie Paterson

Picture courtesy of Sunday Herald

In only the third defeat of his career, he lost his Commonwealth title to Jim Brady over 15 rounds in Glasgow in August 1941. Despite the war, and his role as a corporal in the Royal Air Force, Paterson kept up a relentless pace in his boxing career. From the Brady defeat, he racked up 13 wins out of 14 in bouts around Britain (his loss coming by way of technical knock-out when he broke his hand fighting Frankie Bonser in Nottingham), fighting roughly once a month, to earn himself a crack at Peter Kane's World Flyweight title.

Kane had narrowly lost to Benny Lynch in a world title fight in Glasgow on 3 October 1937 and had drawn with Lynch over 15 rounds 5 months later in Liverpool. When Lynch was stripped of his title for being well over the weight limit for his title fight with Jackie Jurich, the Californian had become the champion. Kane then defeated Jurich in Liverpool in September 1938, giving him such a thumping that he had to have his little finger amputated on his right hand. So there can be no doubting the menace posed, and experience possessed, by the man from Golborne.

Like Paterson, Kane was in the RAF, but had been boxing regularly throughout the war years.

The two met on 19 June 1943 when the Englishman put his title on the line at Hampden Park in Glasgow. The contest had fight fans in a state of excitement: after all, here was Paterson, the Lonsdale Belt holder, the British champion, taking on the world number one.

Kane and Paterson went toe to toe from the second the bell sounded for round one, slugging it out in the middle of the ring. Paterson was the better puncher and caught Kane with the right, dropping him to the canvas. Kane got up on the count of four but Paterson connected with two more punches. The champion was in trouble and at fractionally over a minute into the fight, he was counted out.

In Jackie Paterson, Scotland had a new flyweight champion of the world. Paterson also won the Lonsdale Belt outright in the 61-second contest and became the first southpaw to win the flyweight crown.

The latter years of the war saw Paterson continue with his impressive form, going unbeaten until August 1945 when he lost to Gus Foran in a non-title fight.

Paterson added another title in his next fight on 12 September 1945, moving up six pounds to bantamweight. At the bout in Glasgow, Paterson won the Commonwealth Bantamweight title on points against Jim Brady. The good times continued when Paterson won the European Bantamweight tile on 19 March 1946 from Theo Medina in London.

At this point in his career, Jackie Paterson was World, Commonwealth and British champion at flyweight, and Commonwealth and European champion at bantamweight, an extraordinary achievement.

He put his flyweight titles up for grabs at Hampden Park in the summer of 1946 against veteran Joe Curran. A crowd of 45,000 came to the famous stadium, but Paterson, weakened by fighting at the lesser weight, only managed a points win to retain his belts.

For his next fight, Paterson moved back up to bantamweight. This time, at Hampden, he lost his European Bantamweight title to Theo Medina in bizarre circumstances. In the fourth round, staggering from a series of blows from the challenger, Paterson swung wildly with his right, lost his balance and collapsed on to the canvas. He was unable to get back on to his feet.

For the whole of 1947, Paterson fought as a bantamweight, adding the British title in Manchester against Johnny King.

Controversy surrounded him in the summer of that year. He was due to defend his World title against Dado Marino on 16 July, but collapsed at the weigh-in because he had tried and failed to shed the weight to get down to the 8 stone limit.

The National Boxing Association of America and the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) stripped him of his title, and the promoter called in John “Rinty” Monaghan to fight Medina instead. Monaghan was disqualified for persistent holding.

Paterson succeeded in gaining a court injunction against the BBBC, meaning they could not stage a fight without his involvement. The fight game's governing body in Britain restored his belts to him.

Things started to go badly wrong for Paterson in March 1948. Promoter Bob Gardiner put up a purse of £5,000 to attract the Scottish boxer to Belfast to defend his World and British Flyweight titles against Monaghan, whom he had fought twice before, the results being one win apiece.

“Rinty” Monaghan (named after a silent screen dog Rin Tin Tin) certainly must have taught Barry McGuigan a thing or two: he always sang When Irish Eyes Are Smiling to the crowd before his fights.

Paterson had turned up at the weigh-in looking gaunt, having “boiled off” 4 pounds 12 ounces in a week. He did this by wrapping up in several layers of clothing, but the obvious side effects were dehydration and a lack of strength.

Monaghan had Paterson on the deck in the second round with a left hook. Paterson knew he couldn't last 15 rounds so tried too knock the Irishman out quickly. He ran out of steam and was beaten to submission in the seventh round. Some of the old boxing books show a photo of Paterson in the corner of the ring, with his legs buckled underneath him, unable to make the count.

Paterson's career after losing the World Flyweight title makes depressing reading: he lost 9 out of his last 12 fights, including a defeat by Stan Rowan in Liverpool in March 1949 for his Commonwealth and British Bantamweight titles. His final bout was in Dundee in February 1951 against Willie Myles, an eighth round loss.

When he retired from fighting after a fantastic career, Paterson had earned an estimated £100,000, but he had lost most of that on greyhound betting.

Like Scotland's other flyweight hero Benny Lynch, Paterson died in tragic circumstances. On 19 November 1966, Jackie Paterson was killed in a street fight outside a pub in Amanzimtoti, Natal, in South Africa, where he had gone to live. He had been stabbed in the neck with a bottle.



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