Name: Bert Gilroy
Alias: Antonio Rea
Birthplace: Airdrie, Scotland, United Kingdom
Died: 1998-06-02 (Age:80)
Hometown: Coatbridge, Scotland, United Kingdom
Height: 5′ 8½″ / 174cm
Boxing Record: click
Bert Gilroy was a Scottish Middleweight and Light Heavyweight boxer who fought between 1933 and 1950, compiling a record of 86 wins (44 KOs), 25 losses, and eight draws. Of the losses, twelve were suffered in his first four years, his novice years, and of the remaining 13 losses, seven of them met with documented question or controversy in either decision or circumstances, as did three of his draws.
In his 1959 autobiography Box On, top international boxing referee Eugene Henderson (Randy Turpin vs. Sugar Ray Robinson (1st meeting)), wrote of Airdrie-born, but Coatbridge-based Gilroy: "The Coatbridge stylist was, in my opinion the unluckiest champion that ever was. He was affected by the war more than any other boxer I knew, for just approaching his peak in 1939, he never recaptured it once he went into the services."
Gilroy was also one of the gamest boxers ever to enter a boxing ring, given that he was only 5 feet 9 inches tall, and weighed around 12 stones 3 pounds, yet still willing to challenge a peak-form British heavyweight champion like Bruce Woodcock, twice.
Born in Airdrie in 1918 of Italian Parentage (real name "Rea"), Gilroy came steeped in boxing, with brother Ernie going on to become a successful local boxing promoter in western Scotland. Gilroy began boxing aged 15, in 1933 and soon won lots of fans due to his punching power and the stylish boxing methods that captured the admiration of top Scottish Boxing Referee Eugene Henderson. Inside the ropes too, the Gilroy ring trademarks of style and punch power soon brought dividends.
In 1938 Gilroy became Scottish middleweight Champion by out pointing tough, game, Tommy Smith over fifteen rounds. In his first Scottish title defence against fellow Coatbridge challenger Johnny Clements, on June 4, 1939, Gilroy won in the 13th round against his fellow townsman; and if it wasn't Gilroy's most satisfying victory the same couldn't be said of his next significant victory over Arthur (Ginger) Sadd of Norwich.
Ginger Saad came to the contest against Gilroy in Newcastle in 1940 as a ten-round points conqueror of future World light-heavyweight Champion, the "Bournemouth Lion," Freddie Mills, who paid tribute to Saad's clever boxing skills after their 1939 ring joust. Yet in this British middleweight title eliminator, Gilroy proved himself the better boxer winning the bout over ten rounds to secure a title tilt at the crown then worn by famed Rochdale Thunderbolt Jock McAvoy.
However fate proved a fickle promoter for although a date was fixed for his title bout against fierce hitting McAvoy, Gilroy never kept his ring appointment due to an illness which seriously affected Gilroy, landing the Coatbridge ring stylist in a Military Hospital where it was confidently predicted that Gilroy would never box again.
However those Army medics reckoned without the famous Gilroy fighting spirit. For not only did Gilroy resume boxing in 1941, but he went on to win a second Scottish title in March 1945 by out pointing Jock McCusker for the vacant Scottish light-heavyweight title in Glasgow.
Again, when offered a bout with future French World middleweight Champion Marcel Cerdan in 1947, Gilroy didn't flinch (drying-out to make weight, 48 hours without food or water), and gave a typically game performance against the man who would take American great Tony Zale's World Crown. Gilroy lost by a 4th round kayo.
Gilroy was another of the have gloves fight anybody school, and further proof of this can be gleaned by Gilroy accepting an offer to box future World light-heavyweight kingpin, Freddie Mills at London's Queensberry Club in February 1944. Freddie Mills verdict on Gilroy: Bert proved to be a very game and clever opponent although, after opening his eye in the first round, I put him down for a count of nine. He came back full of heart, and try as I would, I just could not put him away he was just far too clever.
When he fought Freddie Mills that February evening in 1944 London, Gilroy was more used to victory than defeat. By the end of 1944, Gilroy had fought 93 contests of which he had lost only 18 against 67 victories and eight draws. Little wonder then, that Freddie Mills summed up his scrap with Coatbridge ace Gilroy thus: It was Gilroy who got the bigger share of applause and well he merited it. (Gilroy was ahead, pts at the close). Gilroy also fought big Ken Shaw twice in close battles for the Scottish Heavyweight Title. And in his last year was out-pointed by the top British heavyweight Champion Don Cockell, who would later challenge Rocky Marciano for the World heavyweight Title.
Style, gameness, punch, toughness Gilroy had them all, as a third place leading contender for Freddie Mills's British light-heavyweight title, by the now-defunct British boxing magazine Gladiator in 1950 (No.1 - 1939-48), seventeen years after turning pro in 1933.
"But for the second world war, Bert Gilroy could have well won a World Title!": Eugene Henderson
Scottish middleweight Champion, 1938-46 Scottish light-heavyweight Champion, 1945-50 No.1 contender UK, middle & light-heavyweight, 1939-48 official title challenge (10 years) - British middle & light-heavyweight titles, though he did not receive a title shot.
Excerpts from the Scotsman, June 1998 Brian Donald. Scottish Boxing Historian. Amendments and record stats edited by Author/ Researcher Jim Glen, "Gilroy Was Here" biography