“I’ve loved the look of Tommy Milligan since the first time I saw him – his confident aggression, his boxing skills, his accuracy in striking and, above all, his professional way of beating an opponent.”
These are the words of Gilbert Aude, ex boxing news Editor, who joined the staff in 1922 and had the privilege of watching the development of boxing through most of the 20th century. An endorsement like this from Odd says a lot about the quality of the fighter, and Milligan is easy to overlook today.
Our limited snapshots show the one-time British and European middleweight champion he was brutally beaten to defeat by the great Mickey Walker in an unsuccessful bid for a world title, in 1927. What the short snapshots don’t show is that Milligan was cleverly boxed in to win multiple titles. Early rounds he was probably ahead in points until Walker turned the tables and eventually finished 10th.
Born in Shieldmuer in Lanarkshire but born from Hamilton, Tommy became a professional at the age of 17 in 1921 and quickly made a name for himself around Scottish rings. His first big win came in December 1923, when at the age of 19 he halted former British lightweight champion Seaman Hall in six rounds in Belfast. This was followed two months later by another big win when he outplayed future British middleweight title Alex Ireland at Waverley Market in Edinburgh. Then a 15-round competition topped the list at the prestigious National Sports Club (NSC) in Covent Garden, opposite Bermondsey ironman Joe Rolfe. When Milligan suspended Joe in nine rounds, his arrow jumped and within four months he was facing British welterweight and European champion Ted Kidd Lewis in a championship match.
The show set an indoor attendance record for Scotland, as 20,000 fans thronged the Industrial Hall in Edinburgh to see Tommy hold the Ted titles with a 20-point win. Three months later, Milligan added the European middleweight belt to his silverware by outsmarting Italy’s Bruno Frattini despite his weight defect at half a stone in a bout played by the NSC at Holland Park. Then in July 1926 Milligan captured the British 11th 6-pound crown with the 14th round stop for tough George West at the same spot.
Tommy made two successful defenses of his titles against one man, Ted Moore of Plymouth, who had run with Harry Gribb for the world titles at Yankee Stadium two years earlier. He stopped Ted in 14 rounds both times.
The victories prompted Tommy to his fateful world title challenge against Walker, and while the Scotsman was probably not the same fighter after losing to Walker – he only fought four fights and lost his British and European titles to Alex Ireland – there was one last glory night emerging, on paper at least Milligan’s best win so far.
In June 1928, he faced the all-time heavyweight great Maxi Rosenblum at the Royal Albert Hall. Rosenbloom, nicknamed “Slapsie Maxie” for his open-glove style, was nonetheless an exceptional boxer whose legendary trainer Cus D’Amato once said:[He] He was probably the smartest fighter I’ve seen defensively. You just can’t beat a guy.”
Well, in the ninth round, Milligan managed to hit Rosenblum, leaving him writhing in pain on the canvas as he counted. The American player’s corner kick claimed it was a low kick, but the referee deemed the kick legitimate, meaning Tommy had scored a KO win.
Was the hit low? It’s impossible to say without screenshots. But the BN reporter noted that the doctor examined Maxi in his presence before he “declared emphatically that there was not the slightest trace of any injury resulting from the knockout”.
In any case, the score drops as one of only two KOs over Maxie’s impressive record of 274 bouts (207-39-26), a fact Milligan can be very proud of.