Andy Wyper

Born: March 25, 1940;

Died: April 20, 2023

Andy Wyper, who has died aged 83, was a stand-out boxer whose all-action style and powerhouse punching is fondly remembered by boxing fans of a certain vintage.

Knockouts were his stock in trade and led to him being billed as Scotland’s K.O. King and The Pocket Rocky Marciano. Unsurprisingly as his reputation spread there was growing reluctance on the part of potential opponents to face him and at times it was difficult to secure bouts. As he himself commented, “I was a fighter, I didn’t dance about like a boxer”.

Wedded to his exceptional power was a fierce fighting spirit which meant he himself was never knocked out and only once put on the canvas before knocking out that opponent.

A highly successful amateur career at light middleweight saw him win several Scottish titles, represent Scotland over 30 times, win the A.B.A. [British] title and in 1963 valiantly claim a European Championship silver medal in Moscow against elite Russian, Boris Lagutin, who would earn three European golds and two Olympic golds.

Turning professional after Moscow, he fought at welter weight and although he won the Scottish title, probably did not fulfil his potential for several reasons, partly through a troublesome eye injury and also because of professional boxing politics.

That said, his record was commendable - of 20 professional bouts, he won 15, drew one and lost four, many wins coming by knock out, and attracted the attention of boxing celebrities.

In 1963 when Sonny Liston came to Scotland for an exhibition bout in Paisley, his manager Jack Nilon was very impressed by Andy’s punching power and tried to persuade him to join him in America, predicting the fans there would love him. And a year later when the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson also came over for a bout in Paisley, Wyper fought on his undercard having sparred with him in training and admitting “I couldn’t lay a glove on him!”

While a formidable fighting machine in the ring, outside it Wyper was completely different, a quiet, modest and companionable gent.

Andrew McCallum Wyper was born in Newmilns, Ayrshire to parents James, a miner, and Lilias, the third of seven children. Initially he attended St Sophia’s Primary School, Galston and then St Joseph’s Academy, Kilmarnock.

Because he suffered bullying as a youngster, his mother decided boxing was the answer and began training him at home using a book she obtained from America, The Book of Boxing and Bodybuilding, appropriately by Rocky Marciano, undefeated world heavyweight champion.

With it, some boxing equipment and back green sparring with brother Jimmy, Andy began showing potential and aged 14 his mother took him to Witchknowe Boxing Club, Kilmarnock where he came under the expert eye of trainer Alex Mabon. Within months he had won the West District and Scottish age group championships with knockouts and his career was launched.

He left school at 14 to work underground at Lochlea pit as a “stripper”, wielding a boring machine at shoulder height to strip coal from the seam, a demanding task that helped develop his physique. As part of his training, he ran 10 miles each way to and from work. Now eligible for British N.C.B. Championships, he soon made his mark winning the first of five consecutive titles and representing Scotland internationally as he accumulated Scottish and Western District titles. He boxed throughout Europe, in France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Poland and Turkey.

Domestically his highpoint was the A.B.A. title in 1963 in London against former champion Stuart Pearson. Internationally the highpoint was his silver medal in Moscow where his gutsy display had Russian fans booing the referee for stopping the final with a minute remaining and applauding Wyper when he received his medal - from Yuri Gagarin.

He was visibly upset when the bout was stopped as he had not been knocked down and thought Lagutin was tiring. Andy was the only one of 20 British boxers to medal. On his return he was sacked at Lochlea having gone to Moscow without leave but was later reinstated as no replacement could be found for him. Newmilns accorded him a civic dinner in his honour and gifted him an inscribed gold watch.

In 2002 the Russian Boxing Federation invited him as guest of honour to the European Championships there where he was reunited with Lagutin and invited to a dinner for President Putin’s birthday where he met Putin.

Shortly after Moscow he turned pro, knocking out several opponents initially before his first title bout against Don McMillan for the Scottish welterweight belt. Calling it hard fought would be a gross understatement. The Glasgow Herald report stated, “The 6th round was a magnificent display of courage and strength by both … toe to toe they hammered each other.” After the referee stopped it in his favour, Wyper had to have 24 stitches, mostly for an eye injury which latterly bedevilled his career bringing it to an end in 1967.

Although professional, purses were small and Wyper still had to work and he struggled to make the weight. Often fights had to be taken at short notice and he sometimes felt let down by managers.

In November 1963 he married Elizabeth Macdonald at Galston Old Parish Church with whom he enjoyed over 56 years happy marriage and had sons Gordon and Kenneth.

After being made redundant from Killoch pit in his mid-50s, Andy bought a caravan in Silloth where he and Elizabeth enjoyed spending time. With a friend he ran a boxing club in Hurlford for many years while other interests included gardening and watching Celtic.

A well respected and popular figure in his local community, Andy Wyper’s name will long endure in Scottish boxing history. He is survived by son Kenneth, grandson Andrew and siblings Jimmy, Anna and Joe.