Covid lands a knock-out punch on all Cork boxing clubs

Covid lands a knock-out punch on all Cork boxing clubs

Tony Flanagan, Paddy McSweeney, Tim O'Sullivan, Derry McCarthy and Don Murray of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association pictured at an event in the Glen Boxing Club in Blackpool. Picture: Doug Minihane.

BOXING as a sport has been severely curtailed as a consequence of the Covid-19 virus.

Since last March there has been no competitive amateur boxing in Ireland. 

The year 2020 has been extraordinary in the annals of Irish and world sport with the knock-on from the pandemic having far-reaching implications.

The Cork County Boxing Championships did, however, survive. 

These Championships had its most significant entry in many years.

Fortunately, they took place last February and were completed over three days.

Prior to this tournament, Cork experienced success at the National Youth Championships at Dublin's National Stadium in January.

Here, Cork celebrated a magnificent double, courtesy of Leanne Murphy (Togher BC) and Patrick Lawlor (Brian Dillon's BC).

The pair returned to Leeside and were received by the Lord Mayor at City Hall and presented with their Jack McAuliffe medals.

This particular year, however, the only medals available to Cork's boxers were the County Championships medals as Munster and National tournaments were postponed because of the pandemic.

The Cork County medal, which depicts many of the iconic buildings in the city, will become a treasured possession as it was the only medal available to Leeside's boxers in a year the world will never forget.

Meanwhile, Thomas McCarthy's recent bantamweight title celebrations brought back memories of many great Northside boxers.

McCarthy's success was greeted on Leeside by many of the old followers of the sport who had waited eighteen years for a National Elite male belt to return home.

Veteran Glen BC coach Tom Kelleher rejoiced and said: "The famine is over, and there are great days ahead for Cork boxing at this level."

Meantime, the names of Tommy Hyde and Paddy Martin resonated around the Northside last week.

Tommy Hyde was born and reared on Fairhill. Boxing was thriving in schools in Cork at the time.

In 1938, Hyde won a Munster Juvenile title. From school, he joined the Sunnyside BC and was identified as a significant talent.

He quickly moved from Juvenile to Senior grade. In his initial year at County level, he won a welterweight title before going on to secure a series of Munster belts.

In the early 1940s, he racked up several very notable victories including beating Golden Gloves hero Tommy Dowdall. In 1946 he claimed the Irish Senior/Elite welterweight crown at the National Stadium.

Hyde was the first Cork boxer to win a Senior/Elite title at the Stadium which was officially opened in 1939. The homecoming was a massive occasion for Hyde and his family.

He was introduced to a packed City Hall where he received a prolonged standing ovation. In his 200 bouts, Hyde was never floored.

He also has the distinction of having fought in three different weights for Ireland. He also beat a well-known boxer during that era; Rosco Hingston, who was the American champion at the time.

In 1949, in another magnificent achievement, Hyde toured Finland where he won five of his seven bouts over nine days.

The Leesider had a habit of training at the Glen BC in Spring Lane where he drew huge crowds. Here, he trained alongside his life-long friend Paddy Martin, father of the current Taoiseach Michael Martin.

Martin also showed great potential as a boxer as a young man at school. He was encouraged to join the Glen BC.

He also played hurling at football with the Glen and won numerous Munster and County titles at light-heavyweight.

Martin travelled with Hyde on many international teams and boxed for Ireland on fourteen occasions which included outings against Austria, Germany, England, France, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

During his boxing career, he was also an accomplished footballer with St Nicks. On one occasion, lining out in a County semi-final, the great Christy Ring played next to him at corner forward.

Ring won a great ball and passed it to March who was clean throughout on goal. But Martin drove his effort well wide.

Ring shouted across: "Martin, you could have made a name for yourself." Martin replied, excluding expletives, "Ringy my name was made last week and up in lights in Italy when I floored Lorenzo Giovanni."

However, the most important and long remembered victory of Martin's career was recorded at City Hall in 1951 when he outpointed the Jamaican heavyweight Joe Bygraves.

Following that defeat, Bygraves went on the win the British heavyweight title in 1956 in London. He also knocked out Henry Cooper who famously dropped Muhammed Ali.

Hence, Paddy Martin became known as "The Champ."

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