Jimmy Warnock (Belfast)


By all accounts he was a modest man who'd never brag about his ring achievements; but Jimmy Warnock, the hard-hitting Northern Irish southpaw flyweight, had every reason to boast. For one thing, he was the only man to beat Scotland's legendary world flyweight champion Benny Lynch on two occasions.

With nimble footwork, Warnock kept Lynch at long-range throughout their two epic encounters, and prevented the fearsome Scot from landing his pet punches. At the time of their second meeting Lynch held the world and British flyweight titles, but unfortunately for Warnock, neither title was at stake. Somehow Jimmy never won a world or British title, but his credentials as one of Britain and Ireland's great eight-stone men are beyond dispute.

Jimmy wasn't the only fighting Warnock: at least three of his relatives - Dave, Fred and Billy - boxed professionally during the '20s '30s or '40s. In this 1936 article, elder brother Fred talks about Jimmy, the other Warnocks and their tough upbringing.


Jimmy Warmock

The Fighting Life of the Warnocks

By Fred Warnock

We Warnocks get the name of being rather a tough crowd. Well, life made us like that.

Jimmy won't say anything for himself, so I'll have to say something for Jimmy. We, my brother and I, always knew Jimmy had guts.

When I fought my first 10 rounds contest, which was in Portadown, 26 miles from Belfast, he was told to stay at home. We thought that was enough, as we knew he had no money, but judge of our surprise when we saw him at the hall having walked all the way!

Then there was the night he met and defeated Ted Rosbotham at the Harpis Hall. The "curfew" order was in force in Belfast. I had kept Jimmy out until the military ran us both in. We were not released until the next night and Jimmy walked from the police cells at Chichester Street to fulfil his engagement.

It seems to me that promoters think there is only one Warnock who can fight. There's Willie - "Billy" to boxing people - and myself still in the game.

We Had To Fight

Johnny had not left school when we left Lurgan, where we were all born, for Belfast. Our father, who was a boilermaker, had got a job in a Belfast shipyard. Unfortunately, he died shortly afterwards. That meant changes for the family.

Where we had been comfortably well off, Johnny had to go to the mill and sell newspapers at night. Willie and myself, on half-time at the mill, also had to sell newspapers at night.

We don't care who knows it. We were helping our mother to fight the battle of life. Wee Jimmy, too, before he left school, was game enough to work, but when he was only half a day in Emerson's mill at Ballysillan, he was made to go back to school.

Jimmy used to help me sell the papers in Royal Avenue. That was a job you had to fight at. The bigger ones soon learned that the wee Warnocks were the wrong ones to try to put it on to. In time they got to leave us alone, when they found we were not afraid to use our fists, the one of us standing by the other.

We Will Never Forget Our Mother

Our two sisters became weavers in a Belfast factory and our mother worked up to only five years ago, but we have managed to pull through. Johnny, Willie, Jimmy and myself are all married now, but never will we forget our mother, who, sorry to say, is not too well at present.

Willie and I have been to sea and whereas he is in daily employment as a rigger, I have been on the dole for all too long. Jimmy is in a way on velvet now, but we've all had to fight hard for our grub, and even if he does become flyweight champion of the world, take it from me we are not going to forget the hard old days of struggle.

We see to it that Jimmy trains just as hard as we all have had to work. But Jimmy loves training, and it's a good job for him that he does, he gets so much of it!

A Hard Taskmaster

Willie's boss of the Beresford Club where we train, and a bit of a taskmaster he is. When Jimmy was coming to the forefront, I got my orders from Willie to take him along the Horseshoe Road or Glengormley Way in the mornings.

It was strenuous work at first, but now we see the benefit of the routine he planned for us. Willie at holiday times comes out and pads the road along with us. Johnny, these times, does not take a lot to do with boxing except to nearly shout his lungs out for Jimmy when he is boxing.

As Strong as a Horse

Jimmy is a real Warnock. He lives on plain fare and, though small, is as strong as a horse. That's why I always knew he had a good chance with Benny Lynch.

What about the next time? I'm not trying to pull the long bow, but believe me, when I say that we know more now than we did before Jimmy met Benny. Jimmy has not given up his job as a bookmaker's clerk for nothing. He did not get a fortune for meeting Benny the first time. The next time means everything to us.

The first time we were expecting Benny to do things, he would not or could not do so. Jimmy could not get unloading his punch. I'll be surprised if Jimmy does not drop Benny in the next fight.

The Hardest Puncher I've Met

I've met a lot of fellows in the ring in my time who could punch. Without undue flattery I can say that Jimmy punches harder than any of them.

A Lurgan fellow, they tell me, called Ike Weir won the featherweight championship of the world over 40 years ago. I think it's about time another Lurgan fellow won the flyweight championship of the world. I believe he will.

Just let me clear up a little matter regarding us and Mr Jim Edgar. The Belfast public has got it all wrong. If he gets his promoter's license, which I am hoping he will, he can get the return between Jimmy and Benny as well as any other promoter. We have not forgotten or forsaken Mr Edgar.

Further reading

'Down Memory Lane' By Malcolm Brodie

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