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Richard Gallacher

Boxer

Boxer

Born: August 24, 1925; Died: December 10, 2013 .

RICHARD "Skeets" GALLACHER, who has died aged 88, was a gifted boxer who enthused Scottish fans when he made his professional debut at Glasgow's Hampden Park on the same bill as Scotland's first post-war world title fight between Glaswegian Jackie Paterson and Liverpudlian Joe Curran.

What is remarkable about that first professional fight on July 10 1946 is that Skeets Gallacher was up against a Glasgow opponent, Frank Tierney, who was a veteran of eight previous paid bouts. And yet it was brilliant rookie Gallacher who turned in the crowd-pleasing performance by outpointing the vastly more experienced Tierney.

Born in the Dunbartonshire village of Renton, Gallacher, despite showing some early promise at football, was encouraged to take up boxing by his father. He acquired his lifelong soubriquet of Skeets after a famous 1920s American movie actor Skeets Gallacher.

By 1942, when he finally seriously embraced amateur boxing, he began attending the Vale of Leven boxing club where he came under the influence of the club's founders, Alan Jardine and Jim Brown who helped train him, although it was Harry Woods of the Clydebank boxing dynasty who facilitated his pathway to amateur ring stardom. Bookie Woods became a profound believer that his seven-stone protegee Skeets could potentially emulate Jackie Paterson and the Gorbals great, Benny Lynch who had ruled as world eight stone titlist between 1935-38.

However, Lynch did not have a direct instructional input into the young Gallacher's boxing career because by 1942, when Gallacher first laced on his boxing gloves, Lynch was in the throes of serious alcohol-related illness, his world title long lost in 1938 on the scales of an aborted world title defence against American Jackie Jurich in Paisley. And just two months after Gallacher's impressive pro debut at Hampden Park, Lynch was found dying from alcoholism and pneumonia in a Glasgow gutter.

Gallacher's Hampden Park clash two months before Lynch's death was staged by the Dundee-based boxing promoter, George S Grant, with Ayrshire-born Jackie Paterson fighting Liverpudlian Joe Curran over 15 rounds for Paterson's world flyweight title. It was a title that Paterson had won in the same venue just two years before in June 1943 when he electrified the crowd by knocking out defending champion Peter Kane in just 90 seconds - a record stoppage time for a Scot winning a world title that stood for more than 50 years until Scott Harrison surpassed it in early 2000s.

However, nobody present at Hampden on July 10 1946 felt electrified by the tedious 15 rounds they witnessed before Paterson was declared the winner. It was left to Skeets Gallacher to please the fans and press who universally condemned the poor fare offered under the guise of the Paterson v Curran world title fight.

One Scottish ring legend who definitely rated Gallacher as a truly world-class amateur was Scotland's only two-time winner outright of two Lonsdale Belts, Glasgow Bantamweight Peter Keenan.

It was Keenan who introduced me to Skeets when he came to honour Keenan at a boxing bash marking Keenan's 65th birthday. Keenan presaged my personal introduction to Gallacher by saying "this guy Skeets was utterly brilliant as an amateur ... a great boxer." I also quickly learned that Gallacher's reputation for being a gallus, joyous companion was well merited.

What was remarkable about his achievement of being dubbed the world amateur flyweight champion of the world in 1945 was that he did it while having to combine boxing with his long working hours in his job as a marine engineering apprentice at Babcock and Wilcox's Dumbarton works.

Equally, many gifted amateur boxers fail to successfully cross to the professional sport in the ring bit Gallacher did. However, after that impressive pro debut on the Paterson v Curran world title Hampden bill, he lost five consecutive bouts following his Tierney clash at Hampden by being knocked out or stopped between 1946 and 1948, although it is a reflection of Gallacher's prodigious pugilistic ability that the five boxers who defeated him were almost all absolute top notchers like Gorbals flyweight Vic Herman, and the Dundonian tough guys Norman Tennant and Bobby Boland.

Still, nothing can tarnish Gallacher's stellar reputation for skills and great amateur boxing ability - but for the Second World War's intervention he would almost certainly have boxed in the cancelled 1944 Olympic Games for Britain.

He is survived by a brother and son and family and he is widely remembered with affection by most of those who met him socially.

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