Seconds Out

Johnny Kelly, booth boxer

Johnny Kelly, booth boxer

The Life & Times of Johnny Kelly, Booth Boxer

In his 70s, my Uncle John began to write a memoir of his days as a booth boxer. Before his death, he typed hundreds of foolscap pages, recounting events and fights from his boyhood to the early years of the Great Depression. (It seems likely that, for the detail, he was referring to programmes and press cuttings, now lost.)

As a bantamweight fighter, he was only 5’ 3”. But by the time he was  20 years old, he’d boxed around 100 bouts in the boxing booths and halls of Scotland: a number of fights over just a couple of years  that would boggle the mind of most modern fight fans. Like so many sportsmen of the period, Johnny’s career was cut short by the war of 1939, as well as, perhaps, by his own cussedness.

The following text is based on Johnny’s type-script. However, rather  than list all the fights in their proper order, we have chosen to focus  on a few key events, sometimes conflating a number of bouts, to give a brief but authentic picture of his life as a booth boxer.

Round 1: The school of hard knocks