“I LIKED the look of Tommy Milligan from the first time I saw him – his confident aggression, his boxing skill, his precision punching and, above all, the workmanlike way he went about beating the opposition.”

These are the words of Gilbert Odd, former Boxing News editor, who joined the staff in 1922 and had the privilege of witnessing boxing’s development through much of the 20th century. An endorsement like that from Odd says much for the quality of a fighter, and Milligan is easily overlooked today.

The limited footage we have of the one-time British and European middleweight champion shows him brutally battered to defeat by all-time great Mickey Walker in a failed world-title bid, in 1927. What the curtailed footage doesn’t show is that Milligan boxed cleverly to win numerous early rounds and was probably leading on points until Walker turned the tables and eventually finished him in the 10th.

Born at Shieldmuir in Lanarkshire but billed from Hamilton, Tommy turned pro aged 17, in 1921, and quickly made a name for himself around the Scottish rings. His first major win came in December 1923, when at age 19 he stopped former British lightweight champion Seaman Hall in six rounds in Belfast. He followed this two months later with another big win when he outscored future British middleweight titlist Alex Ireland at Edinburgh’s Waverley Market. Then came a top-of-the-bill 15-round contest at Covent Garden’s prestigious National Sporting Club (NSC), versus Bermondsey ironman Joe Rolfe. When Milligan stopped Joe in nine rounds, his stock soared and within four months he was facing reigning British and European welterweight titlist Ted Kid Lewis in a championship match.

The show set an indoor attendance record for Scotland, as 20,000 fans crammed into Edinburgh’s Industrial Hall to see Tommy carry off Ted’s titles with a 20-round points win. Three months later, Milligan added the European middleweight belt to his silverware by outpointing Italy’s Bruno Frattini despite a half-stone weight disadvantage in a match staged by the NSC at Holland Park. Then in July 1926, Milligan captured the British 11st 6lb crown with a 14th-round stoppage of the durable George West at the same venue.

Tommy made two successful defences of his titles against one man, Ted Moore of Plymouth, who’d gone the distance with Harry Greb for world honours at Yankee Stadium two years earlier. He halted Ted in 14 rounds both times.

The wins propelled Tommy to his ill-fated world-title challenge against Walker, and while the Scot was probably not the same fighter after losing to Walker – he only had four more fights and lost his British and European titles to Alex Ireland – there was one final glory night that stands out, on paper at least, as Milligan’s finest win by far.

In June 1928, he faced all-time light-heavy great Maxie Rosenbloom at the Royal Albert Hall. Rosenbloom, nicknamed “Slapsie Maxie” for his open-gloved style, was nevertheless an extraordinary boxer of whom legendary trainer Cus D’Amato once said: “[He] was probably the cleverest fighter I’ve ever seen, defensively. You just couldn’t hit the man.”

Well, in the ninth round, Milligan managed to hit Rosenbloom, leaving him writhing in agony on the canvas as he was counted out. The American’s corner alleged a low blow, but the referee ruled the punch legitimate, meaning Tommy had scored a KO victory.

Was the blow low? Without footage it’s impossible to say. But BN’s reporter noted that a doctor examined Maxie in his presence before “stating emphatically that there was not the slightest trace of any injury from a foul blow”.

At any rate, the result goes down as one of just two KO losses on Maxie’s remarkable 274-bout record (207-39-26), a fact Milligan could be proud of.