Tributes paid to boxing legend Gary Spike O'Sullivan

Tributes paid to boxing legend Gary Spike O'Sullivan

"LONG after he hangs up his gloves, the name Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan will linger proudly for many generations of Cork boxing fans."

Those were the words of Mick O'Brien, President of the Cork County Boxing Board, following Spike's heroic display against Mexico's Jaime Munguia in the early hours of last Sunday morning in Texas.

Munguia won the fight on a stoppage, but O'Sullivan, with the odds stacked against him, asked enough questions of the former WBO World champion in San Antonio.

O'Brien was a Loughmahon BC colleague of O'Sullivan's when he began his pro career with a sixth-round stoppage of Peter Dunn on at the Neptune Stadium in 2008. 

"Since then he's left an indelible mark in the world of professional boxing," O'Brien said.

The Cork boxing chief pointed to O'Sullivan's impressive record which stands at 34 fights and 30 wins with a 61% KO ratio. His four defeats were to either current or former World champions.

"We must take into consideration that Spike set out from a humble farmer's barn on the grounds of Bessborough Covent in Blackrock, O'Brien added.

"From there he eventually progressed to the world stage of middleweight and light middleweight boxing. Today he's a household name all over the globe."

"He has a reputation as a man with a big punch. He's won many belts and is acknowledged as the greatest pro boxer Leeside has produced in the last 60 years."

Cork boxing has seen many stars in the paid ranks over the decades. These include Jack McAuliffe, a world champion, Jack Doyle, a world contender, Pakey O'Mahony, Irish heavyweight champion and British challenger, and Mick Leahy, the British Empire champion who beat Sugar Ray Robinson, and Spike O'Sullivan.

Spike set out on the amateur trail with the Sunnyside BC and later boxed with St Brendan's in the basement of the Glen Church.

Some of his coaches include the famed Joyce brothers, Kieran and Gordon, and the current Chairman of the Glen BC, Anthony Connolly.

O'Sullivan claimed two underage National titles in the amateurs. However, like many young boxers he had a dream. This dream became an aspiration in 1995 following the world middleweight title fight between Steve Collins and Chris Eubank in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

Collins, whose brother Paschal now works O'Sullivan's corner, won that fight to successfully defend the WBO super middleweight belt he claimed against Eubank in Cork earlier that year.

Spike walked home from Pairc Ui Chaoimh that evening with his father Denis vowing to himself that one day he'd challenge for a world title. In 2003, the Loughmahon BC was founded by his parents, Denis and Jacinta O'Sullivan.

Jacinta did a magnificent job as Secretary to develop the club and it was she who acquired the farmer's barn in Bessborough for the unit. The barn was converted into a gym by volunteers.

Those closely associated with the development of the Loughmahon club at the time were Lee Cairns, Denis Coffey, JJ Murphy and Cian O'Brien. O'Brien recorded a famous victory on the pro/am card at the Neptune Stadium on December 4, 2009, when Spike defeated Ciaran Healy to claim the first belt of this paid career, the BUI Irish middleweight title.

Emile Tiedt, whose dad won welter silver for Ireland at the 1956 Olympics, refereed the O'Sullivan versus Healy 10-rounder and scored the bout 98-94 to the Corkman.

O'Sullivan's activity in the pro ranks was a slow burner until he beat Matthew Hall at London's Upton Park in 2012 to secure the WBO International title.

The fight was in front of 40,00 fans and screened live on Sky Sports. Undefeated at the time, O'Sullivan was now the holder of three belts which included an Irish title, an American strap and an International crown.

"He was beginning to attract international attention," said O'Brien. 

"Two men played pivotal roles in his career. He was coached and managed by Paschal Collins and acquired a sponsor and lifelong friend in Conal Thomas. Conal is a great supporter of Cork boxing in both codes."

Following his win at the home of West Ham United, O'Sullivan was invited to the Park the meet President Michael D. Higgins. But he dropped a points decision to Billy Joe Saunders at Wembley Arena in 2013.

At the time, Tim O'Sullivan, President of the Cork Ex-Boxers, was adamant that if O'Sullivan were to make it, he would have to fight in the USA. This route was followed, and Paschal Collins negotiated several lucrative outings in America.

O'Sullivan was a big hit with American fight fans and won several bouts in quick succession, adding an Inter-Continental belt to his collection.

The Corkman has been the subject of two films "The Warrior, made by USA TV in 2016 and "Prizefighter". Directed by Terry McMahon, who was in Texas for the Munguia fight, Prizefighter was broadcast on Virgin TV recently.

"Spike is a winner. He set out to secure a home for his family from his boxing career. He's an iconic figure to all of Cork's young boxers. He has also been a great friend to many of the less well off in Cork society," said O'Brien.

"He's a champion inside and outside the ring."

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