April 18, 2020 by Stephen Bentley
Small Montana: The Story of a Filipino World Boxing Champ
I’d never heard of Small Montana until I got an email from an old friend. I thought I would share it as it’s an interesting story.
Happy Birthday, Big Man.
I know what a football fanatic you are . . . so I am sending you a story about Boxing for your birthday! lol
My father was brought up in the mining village of Holytown in Lanarkshire. My mother was brought up in a terrace of four workers cottages which was called, The Lettre Mill, at Dumgoyne in Stirlingshire. The Lettre Mill stood in a very isolated location at the end of a 100 yard long, winding, gravel track, known locally as, the ‘loan’. The only building on the loan was the Rural Hut, which was the meeting place of Dumgoyne WRI (Women’s Rural Institute).
My mother and father met when they both worked at Killearn Hospital in the late 1940’s and were married in 1950.
My father was a huge boxing fan and assumed that my mother would know little about the sport . . . however he was wrong!
Some years earlier, the Gorbals area of Glasgow had produced a very fine young boxer called, Benny Lynch. Benny wasn’t very big and fought at Flyweight, however he seemed not to understand the concept of defeat and relentlessly battered everyone who was put in front of him. He quickly became Scottish Flyweight Champion and came to the notice of the management, of the then, World Flyweight Champion, Jackie Brown. He was based in Manchester, England and his management weren’t keen on having another British boxer taking the limelight away from their man.
They were therefore very much open to the suggestion of a World Title Fight between their man and Benny Lynch, simply to eliminate this young pretender. The fight was arranged to take place in Brown’s home town of Manchester in September, 1933.
However, Benny had a problem with this match-up. Jackie Brown was a southpaw and Benny had never fought a left-handed boxer at any time in his professional career.
He was sent to a secret location and a prominent southpaw fighter, Wally Swift, was brought up fro Nottingham to be his sparring partner in preparation for the World Title fight. The secret location they were sent to was, the Rural Hut in Dumgoyne.
My mother, who was eighteen at the time, wasn’t only a member of Dumgoyne WRI she was also the designated cleaner of the hall every time it was used. She therefore met both boxers and went out with Wally Swift a couple of times.
Benny’s concentration was on his boxing and how to get past Swift’s awkward guard. He soon figured it out and battered lumps out of Wally Swift.
In September 1935, he went down to Manchester and did exactly the same to Jackie Brown. The referee stopped the fight in the second round to spare Brown any further punishment and Benny Lynch became World Flyweight Champion.
However, his new title wasn’t recognised in the US, as they had their own World Flyweight Champion, the very talented, Small Montana.
Montana wasn’t a southpaw, he was an orthodox fighter which is what Benny was much more used to. He and his management therefore had no hesitation in agreeing to a unification fight to decide the undisputed World Flyweight Championship of the World.
The fight was scheduled to take place at the Empire Pool, Wembley, in January 1937.
Benny worked hard in his pre-match preparation and was at peak fitness for the encounter.
However this proved to be the toughest fight of his career, as Montana matched him blow for blow for the first fourteen rounds. In the fifteenth and final round, Benny produced a flourish which caught the Judges’ attention and he was awarded the victory by the slenderest of margins in a points decision.
Montana’s camp did not accept the decision as they felt that their fighter had done enough to secure the win in the previous fourteen rounds. However, Benny Lynch was declared the undisputed World Flyweight Champion of the World.
He was however very generous in his praise for his opponent, Small Montana.
Small Montana wasn’t his real name, it was simply his professional name, neither was he American.
His name was actually, Benjamin Gan and he was from Negros Occidental in the Philippines.
Take care of yourselves and stay safe.
Best wishes Big Man, YNWA,
Nice story, don’t you think?
This is the Wikipedia page about Small Montana.