MICHAEL O’BRIEN, President of the Cork Board, has revealed that a plaque in honour of Kieran Joyce’s boxing career will be erected on the iconic Boxing Wall in Bishop Lucey Park when the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
Sunnyside BC legend Joyce was unveiled as Cork’s Boxer of the Century at a magnificent Centenary Dinner Dance in celebration of 100 years of the sport on Leeside in 2014.
A two-weight, two-time Olympian, Joyce represented Ireland on over 100 occasions. He won European Elite bronze in Bulgaria in 1983 before lining out at Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988 in between securing six Irish Elite titles.
Following the death of his acclaimed coach Albie Murphy, Joyce put in many years of service as head coach with the Sunnyside BC.
Born on the northside, he was one of 12 children raised by Brian and Elizabeth Joyce. The family ran a coal delivery business on Fairhill. Kieran and his brothers Gordan and Barry joined the Sunnyside unit at an early age.
Joyce recalled that he was about 10 when he answered an opening bell. “I felt destined to be a boxer as I seemed to be a natural at it and it came easy to me,” he said.
Joyce impressed at underage level, winning numerous juvenile and junior titles. He secured his first Elite belt at the National Stadium in 1983 after beating Joe Fenton in the 67kg class on March 25 of that year.
In 1983, he lined out for Ireland at the European Elites in Varna, Bulgaria and toppled Norway’s Kristen Reagan and Hungary’s Tibor Molnar to secure bronze but was beaten on a split decision by eventual gold medallist, Petr Galkin of the USSR, in the semi-finals.
Joyce’s bronze was the only medal that Ireland claimed behind the former Iron Curtain and the Boys in Green, courtesy of the Corkman, finished in 11th place in the medals table at the 19-nation tournament.
“I got more out of Bulgaria than a medal; to see how the Russians, the Poles, the Hungarians and the East Germans approached boxing. The routines they undertook in training was food for thought,” said Joyce.
A year later, Joyce represented Ireland at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The Sunnyside man got a bye in the welter class and stopped Basil Boniface of Seychelles in his first outing.
Joyce dominated the contest, and Boniface was taken into protective custody by the ref in the second round after taking three standing counts.
He met Joni Nyman of Finland in his next bout. The northsider boxed exceptionally well in the first round but lost the second and third frames, and Nyman won on a 4-1 split. The Finn took home bronze from LA.
His second Olympic experience was at Seoul 1988. By the time these Games came around, Joyce was unbeaten in Ireland and had moved up to the light middle division. Battling to make that limit, he moved up another notch to middleweight for the 24th Olympiad.
Wayne McCullough, Michael Carruth, John Lowey, Joe Lawlor, Paul Fitzgerald, Billy Walsh and Joyce made up the Irish squad in Seoul.
The Corkman was drawn against Filipo Palako Vaka of Tonga in his first bout at 75kg and stopped the brave but outclassed Polynesian in the first round.
Uganda’s Franco Wanyama, a renowned puncher, was next on a day of enormous disappointment for the Irish squad as they were all, including Joyce, eliminated.
However, Joyce’s exit was particularly galling as he was on the wrong end of a controversial 3-2 split decision from a fight many believed he had won.
Joyce admitted after the contest that the verdict killed him as he was sure he had done enough to progress. “My objective was gold,” he said. The loss marked the end of his Olympic dream and journey.
Meanwhile, 20 years before Joyce exploded onto the national boxing scene in 1983, another Northside legend, Mick Leahy, won the British middleweight crown in England after stopping George Aldridge in the first round in Nottingham.
Leahy was a supporter and admirer of what Joyce had achieved in the ring. Before he died on January 5, 2010, he returned to Blackpool where he boxed with the Glen BC as a youth.
He was asked for his thoughts on Joyce and said the Sunnyside BC stand out “was a fearless fighting machine who propelled himself out of proportion in his quest to achieve victory at all times.”
In 2007, Joyce was honoured by the IABA. His former Irish and Olympic team-mate Billy Walsh, the current USA head coach, hailed the two-time Olympian.
“He had a superb international record, very seldom beaten and if you were lucky enough to beat him you know you were in a hell of a fight,” said the World Coach of the Year.