One-hour documentary on the history of Cork boxing to air next year

One-hour documentary on the history of Cork boxing to air next year

Pictured at the Jack McAuliffe plaque, (unveiled by Bernard Allen, former Lord Mayor in 1988) at Bishop Lucey Park, Cork were Paddy McSweeney, treasurer Cork Ex Boxers; Mick O'Brien, president Cork County boxing board; Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan, Bernard Allen, Conal Thomas, sponsor of the Cork county boxing board and Tim O'Sullivan, president Cork ex boxers.

A one-hour documentary film, which will comprehensively chart Cork boxing's history, will be premiered early next year to coincide with the Cork Ex Boxers Association's Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The film contains footage from many of the great fights from City Hall in the late 1940s and 1950s and footage from RTÉ's 1960s series Ringside and Cork boxers preparing for the 1984,1988 and 1992 Olympics.

The film includes archive material of a segment by RTÉ with Brendan Mooney of the Irish Examiner featuring the Sunnyside BC and an outstanding interview with the famed coach of the club Albie Murphy.

The documentary will also chronicle the boxing links between Cork and the world where our top pro fighters made international headlines over the last 150 years.

Here, the stories of Jack McAuliffe, Jack Doyle, Mick Leahy and Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan will be recalled as well as capturing the excitement when Cork hosted two world title fights over 25 years ago when Steve Collins defeated Chris Eubank at Mill Street and Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

This film is fast-moving and detailed and will tell part of a dynamic story of a sport that has enjoyed a tremendous tradition on Leeside, emphasising clubs, boxers, Irish champions and Cork Olympians since 1924.

The film also pays tribute to Cork's young guns who've returned from World and European competition will gold, silver and bronze medals in recent years.

Grippingly, the documentary opens with the birth of Jack McAuliffe in Christ Church Lane in 1856. Today, his former home forms part of Bishop Lucey Park which appropriately features the Cork Boxing Wall of Fame.

McAuliffe was born just twenty years after the aftermath of the Great Famine and was baptised at St Peter and Paul's Church where he served as an altar boy before immigrating to New York with his family at ten years of age.

Cork boxer Jack McAuliffe.
Cork boxer Jack McAuliffe.

He later went on to become the undefeated lightweight champion of the world. Following his retirement as a stockbroker, he opened soup kitchens and lodging houses to help the homeless.

A few years ago, the Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, took a keen interest in the life and times of McAuliffe and was presented with a Jack McAuliffe medal by Conal Thomas, who was in Boston with Spike O'Sullivan.

Marty Walsh wrote to Michael O'Brien, President of the Cork Board, and thanked him for providing the medal. He said in his letter that Cork boxers would always be welcome in Boston.

Last week Boston's 1st citizen was included in President-elect Joe Biden's new administration, and Cork boxing now has a friend in the White House.

The St Peter and Paul's area plays a big part in this documentary. In 1948, the parish priest was Father Christy Walsh. In a backroom off the Church, he founded the St Paul's BC.

This was recalled by Frank O'Sullivan, a top boxer who later emigrated to Birmingham and was honoured by Queen Elizabeth in 2012 for services to amateur boxing in the city.

Across from the same Church on Lavitt's Quay, the Cork Newsboys Club produced Tim O'Sullivan and Paddy Kenny who represented Ireland at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

Up the road from the same Church was the famed Cork Young Men's Society BC, which later became Matt Talbot's and operated from Grattan Street, while over on Clarke's bridge the Queen's BC was in situ.

Across from St Peter and Paul's was a little-known area called Brown Street, which now no longer exists as it forms part of the Paul's Street Shopping Plazza.

Here, the great Glen BC boxer Mick Leahy was born. Leahy became British middleweight champion in 1963. In that same street, in 1971, the Leeside BC was founded. The Casey Brothers established this unit along with Paddy Kavanagh, Alan Walsh and Billy O'Donovan who joined six months later. Billy gave 45 years' service to the sport.

This club eventually settled in the Lough Community Centre and today box as the Leeside Lough BC. The Buckley brother's feats from Mallow are recalled, along with the household names of Tommy Hyde, Paddy Martin, Jim Corbett, Danzer Nagle and many more.

Outside of the city, the bonfires in Rylane when Seanie Barrett won his first Elite title are fondly remembered, as are the successes of former clubs such as the Fermoy BC, Dean Sexton's BC and the Ballyvolane BC.

Crowds wait outside the Cork Examiner office for the result of the Jack Doyle vs Jack Petersen British heavyweight title fight which took place at White City, London, in July 1933. Doyle was disqualified in the second round for repeatedly punching low. Irish Examiner Archive reference: 146B
Crowds wait outside the Cork Examiner office for the result of the Jack Doyle vs Jack Petersen British heavyweight title fight which took place at White City, London, in July 1933. Doyle was disqualified in the second round for repeatedly punching low. Irish Examiner Archive reference: 146B

The background of this documentary will feature songs from each era and return to the Northside lanes where many clubs flourished for long and short periods as the iconic bells from Shandon Steeple rang out in the background.

These are the streets which produced the outstanding heavyweights Pakey O'Mahony and Legsy O'Sullivan. Footage is available from 1972 at Leinster House where Jack Lynch tells Muhammad Ali about the Glen BC and the Irish international heavyweight champion Don Murray meeting Joe Frazier when the World and Olympic champion came to Cork's City Hall with his band in the 1970s.

Archive material of Jack Lynch sparring with world champion Rinty Monaghan is also available. Cork's influence in securing the service of Georgia's Zaur Antia, the current Irish head coach, is also covered. Dan O'Connell, a man who has given outstanding service both as a ref and administrator, explains how Antia came to Ireland.

The documentary also chronicles many of Cork's great coaches and administrators from the formation of the Cork Board in 1914 to the present day and explains how the son of a Leeside boxer, Michael Martin, ended up as Taoiseach of our nation and in gratitude returned to the club of his father, the Glen BC, in his first official visit to any sporting club in the country.

The film concludes on the steps of St Peter and Paul's Church when in 1974 Tim O'Sullivan, by accident, bumped into Henry Cooper who was in Cork on holiday.

Tim told Cooper how he and Paddy Martin founded the Cork Ex Boxers Association. Tim talked Cooper through the lanes of Cork and arrived at the CIE hut at the Father Matthew statue on Patrick's street.

Tim kept Cooper talking until Paddy Martin, who was a bus driver, arrived. There was a beam on Martin's face when he saw who Tim's guest was. O'Sullivan did the introductions, saying to Paddy: "This is the famous Henry Cooper."

And then to a shell-shocked Cooper said: "This is Paddy the Champ, the man who beat Joe Bygraves who knocked you out before you dropped the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali." Cooper enjoyed the joke.

Cork Board President Michael O'Brien said that Liam Ronayne, former city librarian, inspired this film.

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