The Leeside Legends series: Cork boxer Mick Leahy made history in Nottingham

The Leeside Legends series: Cork boxer Mick Leahy made history in Nottingham

Mick Leahy seen here taking on Ghana’s Bob Cofie in his one and only professional fight in Cork, at the Parochial Hall in July 1960. 

NOT even the fabled Robert of Locksley, Robin Hood, staged such a daring ambush.

Cork middleweight Mick Leahy took approximately 105 seconds to become a Leeside Legend in Nottingham in May 1963.

The former Glen BC man dethroned England’s George Aldrige one minute and 45 seconds in the first round at the Ice Rink in the city to claim a British title.

Aldrige, the defending champion, bounced into the ring as a clear favourite to retain his crown but was dropped and stopped before some fans had even taken their seats.

Thousands of Leahy’s supporters, many of whom were from Cork, crossed the water to see the Coventry-based fighter do the business in stunning style, with the Corkman delivering one of the fastest and spectacular British title wins in the history of the sport.

But Leahy’s reign didn’t endure long as he was beaten in a Commonwealth fight by Gomeo Brennan of the Bahamas on October 22, 1963, at the Empire Pool at Wembley.

Following the Brennan reversal, he dropped a points decision to Tuna Scanlan in Auckland and Dante Pelaez in the UK either side of a win over Larry Carney in Boston before recording the most iconic victory of his career in September 1969 against Sugar Ray Robinson.

The Harlem stylist, generally considered the best pound for pound fighter of all time, was broke and touring Europe for money when he crossed swords with Leahy at the Ice Rink in Paisley, Scotland.

Sugar Ray showcased some of his dazzling footwork throughout the bout, but the marauding Leahy, a pressure fighter who was influenced by Cork’s Paddy 'The Champ' Martin in the amateurs, ground the legend down en route to a points verdict.

The Leesider, however, was enough of a champion and sportsman to admit after that famous win that the American, a five-time World champion in his glorious prime, was just a shadow of the fighter he once was.

Leahy’s triumph in Paisley was his last as a car accident ended his career in 1965. He was on his way to meet his manager at the time and drove into the back of a car in the British Midlands.

The former British titlist lost the sight in his left eye and suffered damage to his hearing because of the accident and was left with no option but to retire from the ring.

A few months before the accident he lost on points in a bid for the European title against another legend, Hungary’s Laszlo Papp.

The Hungarian arrived on the scene at the 1947 European Elite Championships at Dublin’s National Stadium which was the first major Continental tournament after WW2.

The Budapest southpaw lost in the quarter-finals at the home of Irish boxing, but a year later he won gold at the London Olympics and went on to claim gold at Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956.

Papp turned pro in 1957 and retired unbeaten after the Leahy fight. The first boxer to win three successive Olympic titles, Papp’s career was frustrated and ultimately ruined by the refusal of the communist government in Hungary to grant him a visa to go to the USA and fight for a world title.

The Hungarian, one of the great pound-for-pound fighters in both codes, earned a points decision over Leahy in Vienna. The Mighty Maygar announced his retirement soon after retaining his belt against the Leesider.

The fight was a war of attrition with Leahy walking down his slick opponent at every opportunity and Papp winging home backhands throughout and engaging and uncompromising 15-rounder.

Mick Leahy, the only Corkman to win a British Empire middleweight title. 
Mick Leahy, the only Corkman to win a British Empire middleweight title. 

Leahy returned to the scene of his greatest triumph in December 1964, but his attempt to regain the British title ended on a points reversal to Wally Smith at the Ice Rink in Nottingham.

That defeat was followed by another lost to Italy’s Nino Bunvenuti in Milan and a defeat to Jupp Elze in Cologne on March 19, 1965, in what was his last outing before his car accident.

Leahy debuted with a points win over Steve Gee in Leicester in 1956 and fought in Ireland, UK, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and at New York’s Madison Square Garden. In 1960, in his only pro fight in Cork, he met and outpointed Ghana’s Bob Cofie over ten rounds at the Gurranbraher Hall.

Leahy, who worked with the Massey Ferguson company in Coventry after he quit boxing, died in 2010 aged 74.

The BBC filmed and reported on his funeral: “Former British champion Michael Leahy died on January 5 at University Hospital in Coventry after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Many mourners came from Ireland, as Mr Leahy was born in Cork.”

FACTFILE: 

The Cork middleweight was born on March 12, 1935, and died on January 5, 2010, aged 74;

Leahy boxed out of the Glen BC in the amateur ranks before turning professional in 1956;

His most famous victory was his British title win over George Aldridge in 1963 in Nottingham, and he beat the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson a year later in Scotland;

Leahy won 46 (16 KO), lost 19 (5 KO) and drew seven of his 72 fights in the prize ring;

The Leeside orthodox fought 581 rounds and retired with a 22% KO ratio after nine years of professional boxing.

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