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Johnny Hill


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A very good Scottish fighter who sadly died young, at only 23, Hill was the reigning world flyweight champion at the time of his death. He only had one loss, to the hard-hitting Frenchman Emile Pladner, whom he had defeated twice previously. Actually, he was the first Scottish world champion, despite many today believing that Benny Lynch was that. He was trained by both his father and Tancy Lee and was a durable, as well as a fine technical boxer, standing 5'3. This is his story, a tragic but also glorious one.


He was born 14 December 1905 in Leith, same place as Tancy Lee, who would become his trainer and mentor of course. Only a few yards away from his birthplace was the Sparta boxing club, where Ken Buchanan would later be brought up as a boxer. He won the Scottish flyweight and bantamweight amateur titles and in 1926 also the British ABA flyweight title, and was given the trophy of the best boxer of the championship as well. He made his pro debut on 30 September same year at Premierland in Whitechapel, East London. He beat Bill Huntley by a TKO5. His second fight ended as a no-contest but he remained unbeaten for a long time. He got to fight for the vacant British fly title on 30 May '27 against Alf Barber, at Covent Garden, and won by a TKO14. On 19 December that year, he fought for the first time against Emile Pladner, who was unbeaten at 26-0-2. Hill won on points after 15 rounds, taking his zero. They had a rematch on 19 March next year. In the meantime, Pladner had been awarded the European title by IBU, but it wasn't on stake here, so when Hill again beat him on points, he got nothing. Pladner would later capture the world title as well. However, in his next world title fight, Hill would finally get to fight for the world title. It was recognized as such by California State and Great Britain anyway, and possibly New York State as well. He fought Newsboy Brown (50-4-10 at the time) on 29 August '28 at Orient Football Ground in Clapton and was victorious once again on points after 15 rounds, thus becoming the first Scottish world champion in history. However, he accepted the offer to fight Pladner for the third time in another non-title affair and on 7 February next year he was handed his first and only defeat as a pro, fighting in Paris; he was down three times and stopped by a KO6 by the superior puncher Pladner. Hill only had a strong fifth round.


Despite the devastating loss, he went on to defend his world title against Ernie Jarvis, at Cartyne Greyhound Track in Glasgow, 29 June '29. Jarvis was a Millwall-native with as many as 150 pro fights, winning 84. In the tenth round, Jarvis landed a low blow which made Hill unable to continue and he won by disqualification. He was then supposed to defend against Frankie Genaro, a future world champion, but a month before that he fell ill with pneumonia. At first, his condition improved and the doctors allowed him to go outside, but then he caught a cold while jogging and suffered a broken blood vessel and died on 23 September, 6 AM. He was only 23 and had been a teetotaler, so his death came as a great shock. He has since become somewhat neglected and forgotten by modern day historians, but he was obviously an important figure in Scottish boxing history. His record is 19 wins with 10 ko's and that sole loss.

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