The British Boxing Board of Control have dealt a knock-out blow to fighters' hopes of winning a Lonsdale Belt in record time.

The BBBC has decided a boxer must now win four championship contests in the same weight division, rather than the three previously needed, to clinch a belt outright.

The decision will come into force from September 1 this year, with the new rule also stipulating one of the four wins must include at least one mandatory contest.

BBBC general secretary John Morris said: ''There was a feeling that with the cost of the belt rising steadily, winning a belt outright had become too easy for boxers, and on a number of occasions belts had been won in record time.

''Although the conditions have been made more difficult, the Board is convinced that most British boxers make the winning of a Lonsdale Belt as their own a prime target and this will continue.''

Another amendment passed by the BBBC, which will apply from January 1, 2000, is that any person applying for a licence as a trainer or second must first present a first aid qualification.

The news of the rule change as regards Lonsdale Belts did nothing to dampen a special little celebration last night when Glasgow boxing manager-promoter Tommy Gilmour showed tangible proof of the success of his stable.

Five of his champions gathered in the city at the St Andrews Sporting Club - all displaying Lonsdale belts.

Keith Knox, of Bonnyrigg, was the latest addition to the champions club when he travelled to Belfast last month and dethroned British and Commonwealth flyweight champion Damean Kelly with a dramatic stoppage victory.

In April, Condorrat's Drew Docherty had also taken the journey into his opponent's home territory and emerged with the British super-bantamweight title by comprehensively outpointing Patrick Mullings in Peterborough. This came after he had won a Lonsdale Belt outright at bantamweight.

The Scottish pair were joined by three boxers who are co-managed by Gilmour. Charles Shepherd, of Carlisle, is the reigning British and Commonwealth super-featherweight champion, Bradford's Bobby Vanzie holds the British and Commonwealth lightweight titles, and Derek Roch, of Leeds, is the undefeated British champion at welterweight.

Gilmour has three other boxers who hope to emulate the five. They are intercontinental champions, super-featherweight Ian McLeod, of Kilmarnock, and light-middleweight Joe Townsley, of Clelland, and Scottish bantamweight champion Shaun Anderson, of Maybole.

Said Gilmour: ''I'm proud of them all because every one of them has worked so hard for their success. I'm sure some can go on to bigger things. For example, Charles Shepherd's next fight will be for a world title, while Drew Docherty is lined up to meet Manchester's Michael Brodie for the European championship.''

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