Jump to content

Tancy Lee


Recommended Posts

One of the prizefighters with the most unusual first name, "Tancy" was actually his nickname. Real name James Lee, Tancy's greatest achievement was being the first man to beat the great Jimmy Wilde-and by stoppage, no less. He thus became a world champion, but his glory wouldn't last long, as he lost the title after 9 months to Joe Symonds. Although he later avenged that loss, he failed to recapture that title. However, later he won another world title at featherweight and defended it twice. Lee stood only 5'2 (157 cm) but was a very hardy, durable fighter who could hit pretty well. His career was rather short by the standards of his time, but very eventful.


Born 31 January 1882 in Leith, the port side of Edinburgh, he also grew up and lived in Leith all his life. He started boxing as a pro in 1906, rather late by old time standards. However, he still competed as amateur as well and in 1910 won the British ABA title as a bantam, but was then stripped of it after they found out he was already a pro. Tancy lost for the first time in his ninth pro fight, getting stopped by Alex Lafferty by a TKO13, in April 1911. He won the Scottish flyweight title in March 1914 and then in October fought Percy Jones for the IBU and British title. However, Jones could not make the weight and so his IBU and British titles were not at stake. Lee therefore got nothing in return when he beat Jones by a 14th-round corner retirement at Covent Garden, London. However, the victory opened doors for him to challenge the reigning world champion, the 94-0-1 (according to some sources 103-0-1) Jimmy Wilde, considered the best Welsh fighter and possibly best flyweight ever. Again the fight was at Covent Garden, 25 January 1915 and the Scotsman from Leith defied all expectations when he stopped the Welsh hero by a TKO17! Wilde came into the fight weighing at only 44 kilos, to Lee's 50. Wether that had any effect on the outcome of the fight is not certain but possible. Still, Lee became the first man in history to defeat Wilde and the only one to defeat him while still in his prime. After two non-title fights, Lee signed to make his first defense against Joe Symonds, a 54-8-6 fighter from Plymouth. Symonds was even slightly shorter than Lee at 5'1 or 156 cm, but was a hard hitter and a tough scrapper, just like Lee. The fight was held at Covent Garden again, on 18 October and the two weighed almost identically at 50.6 and 50.5 kilos (111 1/2 and 111 1/4). Though a favorite, Lee was surprisingly stopped by Symonds by a TKO16, almost the same way he won the title.


He bounced back by winning the Scottish bantam title by a KO11 against journeyman Johnny Best and then, in a non-title fight, avenged the loss to Symonds (who was no longer the champion by then) by a RTD17, 5 May 1916, in Symonds' hometown of Plymouth. That fight was at bantamweight and then Lee got the offer to fight Wilde again, who was now again the world champion, having stopped Symonds for it. They faced off on 26 June, only a month later after the Symonds fight and Wilde got his revenge this time by stopping Lee by a KO11. It is unknown wether having to lose weight in such a short span of time had any effect on Lee, but that too is possible. The European title was also on the line. Lee's last achievement was winning the National Sporting Club (aking to a world title) featherweight title by a KO4 against Charlie Hardcastle, 5 November 1917. After losing his next three non title fights, he defended the title successfully this time, by stopping Joe Conn by KO17. He defended the title for the second and last time against Danny Morgan on 24 February 1919, by PTS20, where he also won the Lonsdale belt outright. On 24 December same year, he tried to win the European title (without his title at stake), but lost to Louis de Ponthieu by a KO17 in Paris. He finally lost his title to Mike Honeyman on 25 October 1920, getting stopped by a RTD19. After losing his next fight to the very experienced Auguste Grassi on points, he retired, but came back once more in 1926, aged 44. He fought the 0-1 Joe Seeley in Edinburgh and drew against him after 10 rounds. That must've convinced him to retire. His record is 41 wins, 28 by ko, 10 losses (8 by ko), and 2 draws. After retirement he became a bookmaker and a trainer and a manager as well, training fighters such as Johnny Hill, Alex Ireland, Jim Rolland, as well as his nephews George and James McKenzie. In 1930, a testimonial was held in his honour at Waverly Market in Edinburgh, where he had his last fight.


Tragically, James Tancy Lee was hit by a bus and killed at the age of 59, on 5 February 1941. He was buried at Seafield cemetery in Edinburgh. His wife tried to sue the bus company that owned the bus that killed him, but without success. He had three daughters. He was inducted into the Scottish boxing hall of fame in 2008, in a ceremony attended by his then-94 yearold daughter. Tancy Lee was a true action figher, all blood and guts, like so many from that area and in that era. That he managed to get the best of Jimmy Wilde, despite his weight advantage, is a testament to his capabilities as a boxer. He could however obviously be uneven in his performances and lost to some fighters that he should have beaten because of that. Thank you.



  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...