Tommy Gilmour MBE is widely regarded as a legend of the Scottish boxing scene.

A key player within the domestic fight game for 50 years, the Gilmour family boxing legacy began over a century ago, kickstarting the career of one of Britain’s most successful managers and promoters of all-time. 

The charismatic Scotsman bowed out of the promotional aspect of the business in 2017 after almost five decades of service to the professional game, but leaves some fond memories. 

“My grandad [Jim] boxed for Great Britain in the 1920 [Antwerp] Olympics. My father Tommy Sr. managed his first fighter at the tender age of 14 in 1924, which was four years before the formation of the British Boxing Board of Control itself!” Gilmour told Boxing Social.

“My grandad promoted in Scotland, working with the likes of Mickey Duff in the 1940s and 1950s. Boxing really was the Gilmour family business.”

In 1987, Gilmour took over the institution that still stands as the longest-running Private Members Sporting Club in the world today. He took the St. Andrew’s Sporting Club and lent it fabled status. 

“It would be [33] years ago in September I took control at the St. Andrews Sporting Club,” he recalled. “We put on a final eliminator for the British lightweight title between Steve Boyle and Billy Buchanan, which was an excellent fight [Boyle WTKO7]. We brought in sponsorship and TV, which really brought the club on. We were the first promotion to do corporate hospitality and first to put sponsorship on canvas. I wanted to modernise the St. Andrew’s Sporting Club, but I wanted to adhere to traditions.

“My first fighter was Huey Smith who I trained, too. I was always loyal to my fighters and put them first no matter what and I’m proud of that,” he continued. “I followed on from my grandad and my father helped me, too. The St. Andrews Sporting Club saved Scottish boxing from a promotional aspect in my opinion. We always had a good circle of trainers and fighters and it worked, that’s why we lasted a long time.

“The years 1986-87, it was 24-7, 365 [days-a-year] for us. It was exciting. It’s not like it was now, back then with fighters. I had six or seven fighters ready to fight for the British title at the time. I always had good advice, too, through people my dad knew and I knew.”

Tommy Gilmour is flanked by former pros Gary McArthur (left) and David White (right).
Photo: Andrew Milligan/Press Association.

Boxing is an ever-evolving industry. Elements of the game are improving, arguably some are not. “I was 27 before I saw my first world title fight live. They were far more uncommon than they are today,” said Gilmour. “My dad had two fighters who boxed for a world title. At one time, he had the most British champions of any manager. I had 15 fighters who boxed for the world title and had six fighters winning seven world titles. We were the first and only private members club [with a fight] for a world title.

“Boxing has evolved. Ron Gray and I would travel all over the country and it was such a laugh. The West of Scotland at the time was brilliant. My wife and daughter kept it all running and I will be forever indebted to them for that.” 

Gilmour was recognised by the WBO and IBO as their manager of the year, having guided fighters such as WBO 105lbs and 108lbs title-holder Paul Weir and WBO flyweight champion Pat Clinton to world honours. “I was delighted to receive ‘Manager of the Year’ awards on several occasions from two of the major sanctioning bodies. Working with the likes of IBO President Ed Levine made my job a lot easier at times, as they always did things the honest way and that was always important to me.

“[I’ve since managed] a few of the world’s top darts players. I was brought into that world by Barry Hearn, a great sporting man! That meant a lot and I took the camaraderie that we also had at the St. Andrew’s Sporting Club into the darts world.”

Gilmour defined his boxing legacy in his own words. “My biggest achievement was seeing Pat Clinton win a world title [W12 Isidro Perez, March 1992]. I was the first Scotsman for 46 years to promote a world title fight. The scenes that happened that night were special. Everyone came out to support Pat. It was a very unique night. All the great and the good were in the Kelvin Hall that night. 

“My other standout achievements were seeing Paul Weir win a world title at the St. Andrew’s, Steve Boyle’s WBC International title fight [where] we had 850 in the Albany Hotel and we had 650 for Jim Watt vs Ken Buchanan. Those nights are special.

“One thing that I feel is important is for boxing to get away from protected records. I’d like to see the old school fighters with records like 14-5 fighting for titles. I’d like to see the best fight the best.

“I’d go to battle for my fighter. I probably upset a lot of people but that’s how I got on. I’ve always been my own person. I made mistakes but I’ve had a laugh,” he said candidly. “Let the young ones come through and have the fun and laughter I had.”

Main image: Steve Parsons/Press Association.