THE Cork Ex-Boxers Association (CEBA) have been proactive in the development and promotion of boxing in Cork since 1972.
Each year, the CEBA presents its greatest accolade, the Hall of Fame Award. At a recent function, Billy Deasy was acclaimed as the 2019 inductee.
Deasy’s has had a lifelong passion for the affairs of the squared circle. As a young boy growing up on the Northside he was a big fan of Ring magazine which on Leeside at the time was acknowledged as the Old and New Testament of the sport.
Prior to the advent of TV in Ireland in the early 1960s, news and sport were provided by the BBC World Service.
Twitter, in those days, was a noisy cluster of birds on your roof in early Spring!
It was listening to the BBC that Deasy advanced his knowledge of boxing while tuning in on the wireless to big fights from around the world.
Against such a background, the Northsider was attracted to pugilism from an early age.
While he loved both hurling and football, Deasy wanted to box and it was in the ring that he found his greatest sporting vocation.
Since the foundation of the Glen boxing club in 1916, boxing has dominated the Northside of the city and many clubs have come and gone over the years.
A number of these units existed within range and under the shadow of the iconic Shandon Steeple.
It was in these outfits that Deasy learnt his trade.
He lined out with the Shamrocks BC, Sunnyside BC and the Glen BC.
Affectionately known as “Dawsey”, he boxed the length and breadth of Ireland and was well known in every hall in Munster where for many years he participated in tournaments, leagues and Championships.
He recalls many conversations with Leeside legends Tommy Hyde, Paddy Martin, Jimmy Fitzgerald, Danzer Nagle and Gunner Murray and vividly recollects the archaic and primitive conditions which athletes endured during that austere epoch.
He observed that while the sport produced great champions, the facilities were so limited that the lack of infrastructure resulted in athletes throwing in the towel and losing interest in the sport.
Deasy has been an active member of CEBA for many years and currently holds the post of Vice President.
In this capacity, he attends many functions and tournaments on the Leeside circuit.
He recalls every champion from John L. Sullivan to Muhammad Ali in 1963 and the year that USA President JFK came to Cork.
“Dawsey” had a bird’s eye view of the day and watched the 35th President of America address the seat of Leeside democracy from a building adjacent to the City Hall.
However, it was the great fights at the venue which remain uppermost in his mind.
The same year, he said, was one of the proudest for all Cork boxing fans as Mick Leahy from the Glen BC won a Lonsdale belt after stopping George Aldridge in Nottingham to become the British middleweight champion.
Deasy remembers listening to the commentary of the fight on the radio.
It was a short broadcast as Leahy KO’d Aldridge one minute and 50 seconds into the first round to become a hero for life on Leeside.
Another enduring memory was when Paddy Kenny, who now lives in Coventry, was selected for the Irish squad for Rome 1960.
Kenny shared a dressing room with Cassius Clay, later to become Muhammad Ali, who won light heavy gold in the Eternal City.
Deasy is still a close friend of Kenny who boxed with the Newsboys BC, a former alma mater of Tim O'Sullivan, the current President of the CEBA.
To this day, Deasy is a regular visitor to Dublin's National Stadium and recalls seeing some of the Cork stars of recent years winning Irish titles, referring to Kieran Joyce, Gordon Joyce and Michael Roche, Ireland's only boxer at Sydney 2000.
He acknowledges that Gary “Spike O’Sullivan is a magnificent ambassador in the pro ranks and delights in the current success of Cork boxing.
"World and European are being won by Cork's boxers today which was never the case in my day," he said.
“Today the facilities are there, the coaches are adopting progressive techniques, the sport is being marketed properly and boxing is widely acclaimed by all sports enthusiasts once again."
One of the highlights of his life was seeing a plaque erected in Bishop Lucey Park to ten young Cork boxers who have brought World and European success to the city over the last number of years.
Deasy has been a great servant to boxing in Cork.
To acknowledge his contribution both inside and outside the ring he was presented with his thoroughly deserved CEBA Hall of Fame Award by Tim O’Sullivan.