Cork's boxing history is full of household names from the last century

Cork's boxing history is full of household names from the last century

Former Glen boxer Mick Leahy (l) ducks a shot from Ted Wright during their Welterweight fight at Wembley Arena. The fight ended in a draw.

IN 1950 the President of the Cork County Boxing Board was Charlie Atha, who was a businessman in the city. 

Atha was renowned as a dapper dresser who regularly sported a dickie bow.

He was also widely acknowledged a good organiser and a man who planned for the future.

Old photographs of Charlie have surfaced recently on Facebook. 

Here, former All-Ireland champion Mick Kelleher, son of Glen BC coach Tommy Kelleher, delved into Cork's boxing past to produce some outstanding images of Cork boxing of yesteryear.

Mick Kelleher is today a member of the Cork Ex Boxers Association and his excellent social media work features on a page titled "Mick Kelleher, Cork's Boxers Past and Present."

In December 1950, the Cork boxing chief organised a Christmas party for Cork's juveniles. 

The event took place at the Nook, which was an upstairs restaurant in Patrick's Street close to where the Savoy cinema was located.

At the party, he spoke of the importance of keeping boxing records. 

Today, in this column, we take a brief look back and reflect on Cork boxing from 1900 to 2000.

In and around 1900, Cork's boxing strongholds were located in Blackpool, Mallow, Bandon and Cobh. 

The household names of that year included Jimmy Brown and Jack Stout, while 1912 saw the arrival of Pakey O'Mahony and Lesley O Sullivan. 

Paddy Martin (left) and Jiimmy Fitzgerald presenting the 1984 Cork Ex-Boxers Hall Of Fame award to the legendary Tommy Hyde.
Paddy Martin (left) and Jiimmy Fitzgerald presenting the 1984 Cork Ex-Boxers Hall Of Fame award to the legendary Tommy Hyde.

They both went on the become heavyweight champions of Ireland.

O'Mahony fought for a British title but was beaten by Billy Wells. 

After a plucky display, he was forced into retirement with a broken jaw in the 13th round.

However, his performance was widely admired by the people of Cork who later presented him with a silver belt replicating the British crown.

In 1911, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association was founded in Dublin, and three years later the Cork County Board was established. In 1916, the Glen BC was set up.

The Glen was located in a small terraced house in Springlane where they remained for half a century until 1966.

Amateur boxing ebbed and flowed in the 1920s with clubs coming and going. One such unit was the Parnell club located in Copley Street. The club was burnt to the ground by the Black and Tans in 1920.

In a tribute to that unit, this year's Cork County Championships Certificates features a background illustrating the burning of Leeside.

In 1927, the Sunnyside BC was founded and went on to become Cork's most successful club. Boxing continued to flourish in the 1930s, a period which saw the establishment of the Fermoy unit.

At this time boxing was also expanding in Mallow which produced the Buckley brothers who were revered throughout the country.

Ireland became the envy of the boxing world when the IABA opened the first purpose-built boxing stadium in the world in 1939 with many of Cork's athletes performing at the new venue called the National Stadium.

Cork boxing thrived in the 1940s with tournaments taking place in City Hall. In 1946/47, two Cork boxers won their first titles at the Stadium in Dublin. Jimmy "Gunner" Murray brought glory to the Glen and Tommy Hyde won the first of the Sunnyside club's 21 Elite belts.

The year 1948 was an excellent year for Ernie Keeffe of the Glen BC who was a member of the first Irish rugby team to win the Grand Slam that year.

Two weeks after that, Keeffe lined out for the Irish boxing team that beat England at the Stadium. Terry Moore was the other Irish rugby international to box with the Glen.

In the 1950s, City Hall rocked to boxing nights organised by John Bermingham, a man ahead of his time who later became Lord Mayor of Cork. During the year as mentioned above, he was Secretary of the Glen BC and President of the Cork Board.

One of the most memorable nights in City Hall was when Paddy Martin of the Glen beat Joe Bygraves who were on to knock out Henry Cooper who floored Muhammed Ali. Hence the name Paddy "The Champ" Martin.

In 1960, Paddy Kenny from the CCNBS club represented Ireland at the Rome Olympics which also featured Ali.

Following that decade boxing ebbed for a period before the 1980s ushered in the golden age of the sport after the Sunnyside BC, coached by Albie Murphy, produced outstanding athletes such as Neile Dunne, John Morrissey, the Joyce brothers, Paul Buttimer and five-time Irish champion Michael Roche who brought a glorious end to the century after becoming the only Irish boxer to represent Ireland at Sydney 2000

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