CONAL THOMAS got the decision to once again lead the Cork Boxing Fraternity Association (CBFA) after being re-elected President of the organisation at its fourth annual conference.
The CBFA is an independent group of Leeside business people which was established to assist the development of boxing on Leeside at all levels.
In his address, Thomas said he was delighted to see the sport flourishing on Leeside. The Donegal native has lived in Cork for almost four decades. As a former boxer, he's passionate about promoting the sport in the Rebel County.
Thomas arrived in Cork in 1981 and met and married his wife Majella. He’s been domiciled in the southern capital for 38 years.
His involvement in Cork boxing has seen him encourage and sponsor a large portion of the professional career of Gary 'Spike' O’Sullivan. He's also sponsored the Cork County Boxing Board and assisted individual clubs at various stages.
His daughter Shelley claimed four All-Ireland titles on the bounce boxing out of the Loughmahon BC and is an Irish international, while Thomas senior was also President of the Loughmahon unit when they won Cork's Most Successful Club Award in 2016.
Due to his business and sporting interests, Thomas has travelled throughout the world and has represented Cork in St Patrick’s Day parades in New York and Boston. Two years ago he was a guest of the Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, and presented Boston's 1st citizen with a Jack McAuliffe gold medal.
Last year, Thomas was announced as the Cork Boxing Personality of the Year and received a Civic reception at City Hall where the then Lord Mayor, Cllr. Tony Fitzgerald, described him as a beacon of light on the Cork boxing horizon.
At last weekend’s CBFA conference, however, the big message that Thomas highlighted was the setting up of and launch of the Friends of Cork Boxing, which will take place on Saturday, September 7 next.
"This will be a network of 1,000 members and will cater for male and female boxing enthusiasts, said Thomas. "It will transcend all borders and provide an opportunity for many people to be officially linked with all activities concerning the sport on Leeside."
Thomas explained that they had provided for much of the membership to come from Cork people living abroad from all parts of the world such as Cork-born Frank O’Sullivan, a former Sunnyside BC man, who has been honoured by the Queen for services to amateur boxing in Birmingham and the UK.
Donie Carroll, another graduate of Sunnyside BC who now lives in New York and who recently won the Corkman of the Year in the Big Apple, is also cited, as is Marian O'Leary, daughter of Willie O’Leary, author of Leeside Legends: The Cork Boxing Story.
O'Leary lives in Florida where she takes every opportunity to promote the Irish cause in culture and sport.
Boston's Ed Begley is another man, along with numerous members of the Cork diaspora who remain rooted emotionally and mentally on Leeside.
“In Cork itself and throughout Ireland, many will have the opportunity to link with the sport going forward,” added Thomas who regularly sponsors individual boxing events.
However, he will no longer maintain this role but will invite people to make detailed applications for assistance through the CBFA.
As the recent conference progressed, Thomas did raise a red flag and a note of caution concerning young athletes and the attractions of pro boxing.
"Many of these lads have no idea what is involved here. Very few make it in the paid game,” he remarked in advice designed to distinguish the difference between daydreaming and the harsh and often brutal reality of prizefighting.
Thomas is a successful and hard-nosed businessman who has jobbed many semi-pro boxers who are trying to develop their careers. He is the main contractor to the ESB network and has employed hundreds of people with Conal’s Tree Services, the undisputed champion of tree surgery and maintenance in Ireland.
He also helps and assists people to assess their dedication to boxing realistically and favourably. The CBFA has many plans for the future and is an influential force in Cork.
"Conal Thomas is the right man to lead the organisation at this moment,” said the President of the Cork County Boxing Board Michael O’Brien whose opinion was echoed by Micheál Martin at a Cork Boxing dinner last year.
The Fianna Fail leader, whose family is steeped in Leeside boxing folklore, described Thomas as a man of vision who has displayed passion, dedication and commitment to Cork and Irish boxing.