IT was a privilege to attend the civic reception for Ken Buchanan at the City Chambers in Edinburgh the other night. The man himself was resplendent in a tartan waistcoat and despite his self-acknowledged problems over the years, he looked trim and fit and was certainly very proud of the honour belatedly being bestowed on him by his home city.

Talking with the numerous boxing people attending the event, there was understandable nostalgia for the days when Scotland regularly, if infrequently, produced world champions in a sport which has always been very popular in this country.

One of the conversations I had at the civic reception was about an old argument that no doubt this column will start again. Just how many world boxing champions have we had? Ten are universally recognised, but others say 11 or 12, and my own feeling, after a great deal of research, is that Scotland has produced 18 world champions. I am indebted to the marvellous and a developing website,, for some of the information that follows.

It is often thought that Benny Lynch was our first world champion, winning the world flyweight title by beating Jackie Brown in Manchester in September 1935 at the age of 22.

By the reckoning of many experts, however, there were actually two Scottish world champions before him – Jonny Hill and Tancy Lee, both of whom were from Buchanan’s home city of Edinburgh.

Lee was actually from Leith, which, as Irvine Welsh or any staunch Leither will tell you, was a separate port from Edinburgh when Lee was born in 1882.

James Tancy Lee was the son of a boxer and was a brilliant amateur before stepping up to the paid ranks and becoming British flyweight champion in 1914. In January of the following year, he fought the legendary Mighty Atom, Jimmy Wilde, indisputably the best flyweight in the world at that time and probably of all time, and won the Welshman’s British, European and World (IBU) titles. The latter was sanctioned by the fledgling International Boxing Union (IBU) which the USA did not recognise, but no one across the pond argued with Wilde’s number one status.

In the contest in London, Lee had a massive weight advantage, perhaps 10lbs, and that, and a strong chin, helped him survive Wilde’s usually devastating punches.

Lee then wore down the champion with multiple barrages of hooks and uppercuts, and in the 17th round Wilde’s corner threw in the towel, accepting his first defeat in over 100 fights and the only loss he ever suffered to a British boxer.

Remarkably, a short film of the final round can be seen on Youtube – and don’t look for the referee as at that time, the third man stayed outside the ring to officiate.

Lee lost his titles to Joe Symonds and lost a rematch with Wilde but regained the British title and fought on until 1926 when he made a comeback after almost five years in retirement at the age of 44, drawing with Glasgow’s Jonny Seeley. Lee was knocked down and killed by a Corporation bus in wartime Edinburgh at the age of 59.

He had helped train Johnny Hill, who was born in 1905 and won his world title in 1928 by defeating Russian-born champion Newsboy Brown of California. The all-powerful New York State Athletic Commission also recognised Hill as champion, meaning that he really was the world title holder. Less than a year later, Hill was out training in chill weather, caught a cold that became pneumonia and in those pre-antibiotic days, died aged just 23.

Frankie Genaro was en route to Britain from his native New York for their world championship fight when he was told the news, and the American insisted on travelling to Hill’s home town of Strathmiglo in Fife where he acted as pallbearer.

Back to Lynch…what a fighter the wee man was. Yet overwhelmed by fame, he who lost his world title by failing to make the weight before his life spiralled into alcoholism and early death aged 33.

A premature death was also suffered by Jackie Paterson, who became World Flyweight champion in 1943 by beating Peter Kane inside a minute at Hampden. Paterson, from Springside in Ayrshire, lost his title in 1948 to Rinty Monaghan and later emigrated. He was stabbed to death in a bar-room brawl in South Africa in 1966. Paterson was just 46.

Scotland had to wait until 1966 for its next world champion.

Walter McGowan of Burnbank near Hamilton won the world flyweight title from Salvatore Burruni at Wembley, before losing it two years later to Chartchai Chinoi.

Buchanan’s heroics in the early 1970s were documented in The National on Friday, and after him came Jim Watt, perhaps our most popular champion, his world lightweight title being won against Colombian Alfredo Pitalua in April 1979. His four title defences included a superb performance against American Howard Davis at Ibrox Park, before his defeat by Alexis Arguello caused him to retire in 1981 after which he became a successful boxing commentator.

In the 1990s, those wee tigers Pat Clinton and Paul Weir were world champions, Clinton winning the WBO world flyweight championship before Weir became the first Scot to win world titles at different weights, clinching the WBO straw-weight title in 1993 and the light-fly title the following year.

No Scottish boxing fan needs reminding that in this century Scott Harrison, Alex Arthur and Ricky Burns have all been crowned world champions by recognised sanctioning bodies, but Aberdeen’s Lee McAllister, Scott Dixon of Hamilton (now living in Malta), Uddingston’s Lawrence Murphy, and Glaswegians Craig Docherty and Willie Limond all won the World Boxing Union version of world titles – not very much acknowledged by the boxing fraternity, but I wouldn’t tell them that if I were you…

The 18th champion is the one everybody forgets. Murray Sutherland, born in Edinburgh in 1953, who emigrated to Canada as a teenager and built a long career boxing in the USA where he won the IBF Super-middleweight title in 1984.

No less a legend than Tommy “the Hitman” Hearns said Sutherland was the toughest fighter he ever faced, which is some compliment for the “forgotten” Scottish champion.