Shandon Street is the Boulevard of the Cork boxing legends

SHANDON STREET has always been known as the boxing boulevard.

Strolling from the North Cathedral to the North Gate Bridge, it's difficult not to encounter fistic pilgrims prepared to discuss what condition the condition of the sport is in or reflect on the great battles of yesteryear.

The area prides itself on its ring legends, and the Northside is renowned as the Mecca of boxing in the Southern Capital.

Many clubs have contributed to this hard-earned and well-deserved accolade. Three units, in particular, have become household names locally and nationally.

The Glen BC, the oldest boxing club in Ireland, the Sunnyside BC, arguably the most successful unit in the history of the sport on Leeside, and the Fr Horgan's BC, an outfit now in its 60th year, has produced many outstanding pugilists.

Fr Horgan's recently celebrated the success of Tokyo 202O prospect Christina Desmond, a World Youth finalist and Youth Olympian.

Desmond created history after claiming Elite welterweight titles in February 2019 and November 2019 as the IABA ran the National Elites twice last year to facilitate Ireland's boxers, including Desmond, going into the European qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 in London this month.

The Macroom southpaw also won the Best Female Boxer Award at the February 2019 edition of the flagship tournament of Irish boxing.

Meanwhile, the Sunnyside BC are still churning out champions. The unit was established in 1927, while the Glen BC, like old man river, keeps rolling along and now spans two centuries.

Both clubs came under the auspices of the IABA at foundation. The Glen was the first to affiliate with the governing body for Irish boxing in 1916, five years after the IABA was founded in Dublin.

The alliance was forged during an existential crisis in world history with WW1 claiming millions of lives and Eire striking for independence.

At the time, pro boxing was the norm on Leeside. Amateur boxing was introduced in England in the mid-1860s because of ethical objections to prizefighting (pro boxing).

The new code made its Olympic debut at St Louis 1904. Meanwhile, the King of the pro ring during that epoch was Cork's Pakey O'Mahony, the heavyweight champion of Ireland.

However, on one occasion he was challenged by a local on Shandon Street. The challenger was known as Edward 'Legsy' O'Sullivan, a charismatic personality who had also won an Irish belt.

Legsy's massive shoulders and hands bore the hallmark of a man well equipped to go the distance. The Corkman was famous for his ring endeavours and renowned as one of the most courageous fighters to grace the squared circle.

Due to difficult economic circumstances at the time, he joined the British Army, which was then called the army, and served in India before returning to his boxing career.

At home on leave from the world's most horrific conflict in 1916, Legsy called O'Mahony out.

The challenge propelled the WW1 hero into the annals of Cork sporting history. The fight dominated conversations at every street corner, hostelry and church.

Cork began counting down the days to the opening bell at the Opera House. Over two thousand attended flocked to ringside with hundreds locked outside the door.

Both men traded serious leather over 15 rounds. No quarter was asked or given. A sizable contingent appeared content to unofficially score the bout a draw.

However, many demanded a verdict, and in a magnificent gesture, Legsy raised O'Mahony's hand and declared him the victor saying "where I am going back to (the trenches of WW1) I may not return, and Cork needs to have a champion.'

A cavalcade of sidecars awaited Legsy after the bout and his supporters crossed the North Gate Bridge to the bars of Shandon Street where they celebrated well into the night.

Following the decision, which was officially a draw, O'Mahony, a pleasant, softly spoken man, turned to field sport and coaching.

He hung up his gloves soon after his epic Cork derby with Legsy to concentrate on playing Gaelic football with St Nicks, the local Blackpool side.

A selector and committeeman at the club at the time was Tomás Mac Curtain who went on the become Lord Mayor of Cork and lose his life in the fight for Irish freedom. O'Mahony trained the athletes at the Glen BC from 1916.

He was joined at Ireland's oldest club by Mac Curtain who at that point was a local businessman and an influential political figure. O'Mahony was the first trainer at the Glen BC, and Mac Curtain the club's first President.

Both men set out to promote boxing in the Blackpool area and both left an indelible mark on Ireland's most successful Olympic sport and the elder statesman of Irish boxing, the Glen BC.

More in this section

Sponsored Content