CORK boxing legend Don Murray made history after winning Junior and Senior/Elite Irish heavyweight titles in 1962.
Murray was born on July 19, 1939, a few months after Dublin’s National Stadium was officially opened for the 1939 European Championships, the last Continental competition before the second world war.
He lived on Derrynane Road in the Turner’s Cross area of the city and received his education at the Presentation Brothers at Coláiste Chríost Rí where he completed his Inter Cert exam.
While at school he played Gaelic football. He was also the last line of defence with Tower Rovers FC. At this point, boxing was not on Murray’s sporting horizon.
However, after he left school he became friendly with an individual who expressed an interest in the affairs of the squared circle.
The person concerned told Murray he was joining the CCYMS club (Cork Catholic Young Men’s Society).
Murray’s pal admitted that he took up boxing to toughen up and defend himself from the gangs prowling Cork’s streets.
At this point, neither Murray nor any members of his family had any particular interest in or attraction to the sport.
His father was a mason who played hurling with Lough Rovers. Murray had one brother and three sisters. His mother was a religious woman whose only interest was finding a job for her son.
The two-time Irish titlist recalled that his mum made two pilgrimages to Lough Derg to petition the Lord on behalf of her son. Following the second celestial tête-à-tête, Murray got his first job as a junior clerk at Cork Corporation.
Simultaneously, he had taken like a duck to water to boxing at the CCYMS unit where he remained for the next three years, winning County and Munster titles.
Around 1960 the club lost its base and moved to Matt Talbot Hall on Grattan Street and changed its name to the Matt Talbot BC. The new outfit was located on the ground floor of a large building in the Middle Parish Community Centre.
Murray’s coach was Tom Atkinson, an ESB official. Among Murray’s colleagues at the club were, Mick O’Donovan, Tom Cotter, Joe Kennedy, Richie Doolin and the Power brothers — Dave, Gerry and Joe.
Sean Crowley was the club chairman and Sunday morning was the main training session of the week. Among those who sparred with Murray were Ray Donnelly and John Murphy who went on to make a name for himself in judo.
At this juncture, Murray was making notable progress. The year 1962 beckoned, and the southside boxer fulfilled his potential in January of the New Year after winning an Irish Junior heavyweight crown.
And just over two months later he beat Jim Monaghan on points to take home the Senior/Elite heavyweight belt from the National Stadium on March 30.
He made his international debut against Mexico in April of that year. Following his international bow, Murray was offered a pro contract.
But he turned the offer down and also retired from boxing, remarking that he’d achieved all he wanted to achieve and he felt that the time was right to quit.
He did, however, put a lot back into the sport and coached the UCC BC for several years.
Murray’s other interest was in deep-sea diving as a professional diver and underwater explosives manager working out of Kinsale.
Following his boxing exploits, the Lucey brothers, who were running Cork’s dance halls at the time, offered him a job as manager of their outlets at the Majorca in Crosshaven, the Red Barn in Youghal and the famed Stardust Club.
As manager of the Lucey dance dynasty, Murray met all the movers and shakers of the era. He recalled rubbing shoulders with the last of the Teddy Boys, the new skinheads, routine thugs and self-proclaimed hard shaws.
Murray is currently a prominent member of the Cork Ex Boxers Association and is grandfather to 11 children. He was married to his wife Derinell for 42 years. She sadly passed away in 2008. He has one son, Ronan,and two daughters, Neasa and Orla.
Murray today enjoys the company of his partner Angela and he keeps well up to date with the activities of Cork and Irish boxing.
Not surprisingly, one of his fondest memories of his time between the ropes was the night he outpointed Jim Monaghan to complete a remarkable double at the home of Olympic and World champions and medalists.