Former world champ Steve Collins will never forget his three day visit to Cork and the love shown to him by all in the Cork boxing world

In a glowing tribute to Conal Thomas and Mick O'Brien, who organised the weekend, the former world champion said these two men had put on a program that he and his wife will never forget.
Former world champ Steve Collins will never forget his three day visit to Cork and the love shown to him by all in the Cork boxing world

JJ Murphy of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association presenting Steve Collins with an honourary ‘Jack McAuliffe Medal’ at the celebratory function in the Kingsley Hotel. This medal is presented by the CEBA to all Cork boxers that claim a national title at any level. Picture: Doug Minihane

THE impact former WBO super middleweight champion of the world Steve Collins made during his visit to Leeside was truly phenomenal.

His three-day visit to Cork created huge interest, and the five hundred programmes which were printed for the occasion were reprinted five times over to satisfy the demand.

In total, in excess of 3,000 copies, which were complimentary, were snapped up. 

The focal point of his visit was to have a plaque erected in his name on Cork's famous boxing wall.

Michael O'Brien, Chairman of the Friends of Cork boxing group, said that he and Conal Thomas had planned this event over 12 months ago.

Thomas said, "we knew Collins still had the magic to attract boxing patrons, and this was proved over and over again during his visit."

O'Brien said that everywhere Collins went he was greeted by large crowds, adding that he has "the charisma that has a feel-good factor that attracts many to engage with him."

A special time in the program was put aside for Collins to meet intellectually and physically challenged people and here Collins excelled, giving them lots of his time and attention.

Amusingly, at one stage, he told his audience that he had signed so many autographs that he had run out of ten biros.

Steve Collins with Cork County Boxing Board vice president Michael O’Brien at the plaque in Bishop Lucey Park honouring Collins achievements in Cork in 1995. Picture: Doug Minihane
Steve Collins with Cork County Boxing Board vice president Michael O’Brien at the plaque in Bishop Lucey Park honouring Collins achievements in Cork in 1995. Picture: Doug Minihane

This is the type of positive news Irish boxing needs at the moment. 

Over the last couple of years, much of the news concerning Irish boxing has been negative.

The media have had a field day with many of the difficulties which have arisen within Irish amateur boxing in recent times.

However, Cork boxing is a prime example of a county that has not engaged in or become embroiled in any of these controversies.

People on the ground in Cork can see that there is unrest in the sport at national level. 

There is a strategy for the resolution of these disputes at all times but some people are hell-bent on bringing the sport to its knees rather than find a constructive solution.

In contrast, Cork will go about its business in promoting boxing in a positive way. 

All Cork boxing groups work together for the betterment of the sport and its members. 

The Cork County Board, the Cork Ex Boxers Association, the Cork Fraternity Association and now the Friends of Cork boxing always highlight the positive.

For these reasons, and their passion and promotion of the sport, Cork is regularly admired by many groups.

The 25th anniversary of Steve Collins; success on Leeside illustrated clearly that there is still a very strong boxing base in Cork.

The interest in the recent event was so strong but for the handicap of the current pandemic, research suggests that over a thousand would have attended the banquet.

This event which was hailed as a comprehensive success, also had a questions and answers session.

This was hosted by TV3 commentator Trevor Welch. 

The question that were asked of Steve Collins were many and varied and his answers held his audience captive, through his remarkable honesty and desire to let the public know what goes on behind the scenes in professional boxing.

This was also a night for presentations and Martin Coughlan, Secretary of the Cork Ex Boxers, presented Collins with a golden jubilee tie to mark their 50th celebrations.

Ray Nugent of Suits Distributors with Irish boxing legend Steve Collins on a recent visit to Cork
Ray Nugent of Suits Distributors with Irish boxing legend Steve Collins on a recent visit to Cork

The Chairman of the Cork Ex Boxers, JJ Murphy, had the privilege and distinction of being part of a very unique occasion in the annals of Cork boxing history.

JJ presented Collins with a Jack McAuliffe gold medal which are only presented to Cork boxers who win All-Ireland titles.

However, on this occasion the medal that JJ presented had, as usual, the image of Cork's world champion from 1888 on one side and the other side named and handsomely inscribed Collins' success as being the only man in history to win a world title in Cork.

On receiving this specially struck medal, Collins said he was humbled and honoured.

In a glowing tribute to Conal Thomas and Mick O'Brien, who organised the weekend, the former world champion said these two men had put on a program that he and his wife will never forget.

"Their attention to detail and organisation was mind-blowing in marking the 25th anniversary of my win," he said.

Collins then made a presentation to Michael O'Brien whom he described as the greatest County Board president the country had ever seen.

Event organiser, Conal Thomas of Conals Tree Services, presenting Collins with a replica of the plaque that was unveiled in his honour in Bishop Lucey Park. Picture: Doug Minihane
Event organiser, Conal Thomas of Conals Tree Services, presenting Collins with a replica of the plaque that was unveiled in his honour in Bishop Lucey Park. Picture: Doug Minihane

The final act of the night saw piper Norman O'Rourke play stand up and fight until you hear the bell and the roar of the crowd that greeted this could have been heard all the way back in Millstreet.

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