Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Bert Kirby

The youngest child in the family, Berty Kirby, was born on 2 December 1908. He died in 1975 aged 66.

Bert became a well known flyweight boxer. His boxing career started at the tender age of 16 with a fight against Billy Burns at Tyseley, Birmingham on 13 March 1924, which he won. His next fight, against Frank Fowler at the Corn Exchange, Birmingham on 23 June 1924 was a points draw, but he then went on to win his next 11 fights, mainly at venues in Birmingham such as the Metropolitan Boxing Club, Saltley and the Hippodrome, Aston (behind the Barton Arms pub—now The Drum Arts Centre).

On the 19 December 1926 he fought his first boxing march outside of Birmingham against Young Kilby at the Manor Hall, Hackney, London. Bert won on a knock-out and continued to win fight after fight in the capital at venues such as Manor Hall Hackney, The Ring Southwark and Kensington Baths. In his first 29 fights, Bert lost only once and drew once.

During 1928 Bert returned to the West Midlands where he fought several times at Ryle’s    Market in Smethwick and Woodcock Street Baths in Birmingham. On 25 June 1928 he lost a controversial fight at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington against Nicolas Petit-Biquet. The   next morning the Western Daily Press declared:

“Kirby had to concede well over half a stone. Even at that we were unable to agree with the referee when he announced that the Belgian was the winner. According to our reckoning the little Brum had a clear lead on points”.

Just six months later Bert had another crack at the Belgian, again billed as a big fight at the Royal Albert hall, but this time the boxing correspondent at the Western Daily Press was in no doubt that Petit-Biquet deserved to win. Writing on Friday 7 December 1928, the paper said:

“This return affair left no room for doubt that on his night’s work Kirby was outpointed. For orthodox boxing and ring technique Kirby was never beaten, but for strength and fire of attack and initiative he was only second best… The Belgian lad was returned a just and popular winner”.
April 1927, London gym owner Fred Dyer standing between British flyweight boxers Bert Kirby (right) and George Rose
(courtesy of Getty images)

On 11 May 1929 Bert won the Midlands Featherweight Title in a fight against Billy James at The Rink, West Bromwich and held on to his title in a crowd pleasing bout on 16 June 1929 against Harry Hill, also at The Rink. The publication Boxing, Racing and Football wrote of the fight:

"Hill who had returned to the Midland’s capital bearing laurels gathered in Canada and the United States, and who had clamoured for this match with Kirby, could only go to scale at 8st. 1½ Ibs. Kirby, who was entitled to raise a scream, since he was 1 ½ Ibs. inside, did not put in any claim for forfeit and was even willing to allow his title to come up for question should the verdict go against him. It didn't and there wasn't a reason why it should."

Jackie Brown
On 13 October 1929, Bert Kirby went up against Jackie Brown for the British Flyweight Title which had become vacant following the death of the holder Johnny Hill. Even though the fight took place in Kirby’s back yard at the Palais de Danse, West Bromwich, he lost. But Kirby challenged Brown for the title again with a rematch on 3 March 1930 at the National Sporting Club in Holborn, London, which he won this time by knocking Brown out in round three. Bert Kirby was crowned British Flyweight Champion and held the British title for nearly a year. On 2 February 1931 he lost it back to Brown who then held on to the title for the next four years until 1935.

Bert Kirby’s last boxing match was on 16 August 1938 against Young Chocolate at the Greyhound Stadium in Reading. He won the fight after his opponent was disqualified. During his career Kirby boxed a total of 2078 rounds in 203 fights. He won 123 fights with 40 knock-outs and lost 62, being knocked out 13 times. He drew 17 fights.

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