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17 October 2014

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Walter McGowan wins flyweight world title 1966


Walter McGowan


On Saturday 14 March 1936, the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch announced on its sports pages, "Connolly Taken Distance - Magnificent Display of Pluck By Gans".

The report went on to outline how Bathgate fighter Joe Connolly had appeared for the very first time as a top-of-the-bill boxer over 12 rounds. However, it was Connolly's opponent, 'Joe Gans' alias Thomas McGowan, who really stole the show by his fighting display of guts.

For example, the Dispatch's boxing scribe continued: "By the end of the seventh session Gans' face was puffed…but he was full of pluck in a contest going continually against him… Gans took further terrific punishment and went down for an eight count in the 10th…another count of 9 came Gans' way in the final round but Connolly could not put him out…"

Now, fast forward the march of time by exactly 30 years to Wembley, London.

The date? 14 June 1966, when another McGowan, well ahead by the seventh round of his world WBC flyweight title clash against the Sardinian, Salvatore Barruni sustained a gashed eye of sufficent severity to warrant the close inspection of English referee, Harry Gibbs. But still he shrugged off the this handicap to box, as one ringside ring critic put it "like a little master. Using his speed, jabbing in clusters and bringing the right hand home."

These were boxing skills which brought him victory and Scotland her fourth world flyweight champion.

The McGowan who achieved this famous Wembley ring triumph was Walter McGowan, son of the gallant 1934 vintage Thomas McGowan, aka 'Joe Gans'. A Lanarkshire miner originally, Thomas McGowan was such an unabashed admirer of legendary US Afro-American early-20th century world lightweight champion Joe Gans that he adopted his name as his own "nom du ring".

Born on 13 October 1942 in the racecourse town of Hamilton, Walter (like future world flyweight champion Pat Clinton who followed him) had original ambitions to be a jockey, but he soon forgot about that when, guided by his dad who now was permanently known as 'Joe Gans', Walter embarked on a brilliant amateur boxing career.

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