I Used to Put on People's Lights as an Electrician and Then I Was Paid to Put Them out as a Boxer; THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW; Jim Watt Carved His Legend with Bloodand Guts in the Ring but His Humility and Dignity Transcend His Sporting Endeavours

Daily Mail (London), August 25, 2018 | Go to article overview

I Used to Put on People's Lights as an Electrician and Then I Was Paid to Put Them out as a Boxer; THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW; Jim Watt Carved His Legend with Bloodand Guts in the Ring but His Humility and Dignity Transcend His Sporting Endeavours


Byline: HUGH MACDONALD

IM WATT is a good guy. My granny told me. She was rarely wrong, but never more right in this verdict.

'Aye, I remember her,' says the champ. He details precisely where my granny lived upstairs from him in the close in Killearn Street, Possilpark. He was called upon by the widowed MacDonald to change bulbs or fix fuses some 50 years or more ago.

'I used to put on people's lights as an electrician and then I was paid to put them out as a boxer,' he adds. The line may be practised but it serves as a reminder that Watt, now 70, did not have to find humility in the boxing ring. It was his constant companion.

There was the glory of two remarkable years as lightweight world champion. There was also the reality of being a five-year-old boy, who was deprived of his father, of being a middle-aged man who lost his two children.

The ring career itself would lend itself to the hackneyed arc of the Hollywood movie. Watt did not become a world champion until he was 31. He fought five times for the title from 1979 to 1981 in front of Scottish crowds bruised by the failure of the football team in the World Cup in Argentina. He won them all.

His sixth and last world title fight was against Alexis Arguello, a future all-time great, at Wembley, the graveyard of so many Scottish hopes. Watt, the warrior, was carried out on his shield, surviving 15 rounds but losing on all the scorecards.

If boxing was his trade, an opportunity to prove his greatness, it is survival that is his most affecting, perhaps inspiring trait. He has bent at the waist to accept extraordinary praise but he has never bowed to awful tragedy.

'A lot of things shaped me,' says Watt. 'My father died when I was five. My mother went out to work and supported us, me and my sister. I had the key of the front door on a string round my neck, tucked inside my shirt. I was told never take that off.

'I was coming back to an empty house. It was that kind of life. I had a wonderful mother but I was not mollycoddled. I had to look after myself, make decisions. That shaped my personality.' Family tragedy stalked him. His son was killed, aged 17, in a car crash in 1995. His daughter was found dead in her home in June 2015. She was 38.

'I have had horrible tragedies. I have lost my two children. There is no silver lining there,' he says. 'The worst thing that can happen to you is losing a child. I have lost two.

'I am mentally strong. I have managed to cope with it. My wife will always struggle with it. I spent a lot of my life conditioning my mind when a lot of my mates were going out and I was in training.

going out and I was in training.

'I conditioned my mind then to cope with what I had to cope with. It will maybe be very hard again some time. But that's what I am doing at the moment.' This is said without a hint of selfpity. This remarkable resilience was visible, too, in the ring.

Watt is speaking in a room next to where he has just attended a press conference to announce the British bantamweight title fight between two Scots - Kash Farooq and Jamie Wilson - that will take place at the St Andrew's Sporting Club, where Watt is now a patron, on September 27.

It supplies an appropriate moment to reflect on his career, particularly the major staging post of a 1973 fight against Ken Buchanan in Glasgow's Albany Hotel, then the home of the St Andrew's Sporting Club.

'Kenny had just lost his world title six months before that to (Roberto) Duran. I had only 16 fights at the time and probably wasn't quite ready to face Kenny,' admits Watt. 'But he needed one more notch on the Lonsdale belt, I was British champion and that is why the fight took place.' He has no protest about the verdict being given to Buchanan.

'The show I put up in that defeat did me a lot more good than any of my victories up to that point or even afterwards because I was a huge underdog,' he adds. …

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