Mick O'Brien's legacy as president of the Cork County Boxing Board will see him remembered as one of the best ever

O'Brien brought about huge change in the sport, both inside and outside the ring.  He will be a hard act to follow
Mick O'Brien's legacy as president of the Cork County Boxing Board will see him remembered as one of the best ever

Mick O'Brien makes a presentation to Cork boxer Mick O'Brien. Picture: Doug Minihane.

LAST November, Mick O'Brien stepped down as President of the Cork County Boxing Board.

His reason for moving on was simple. 

He said he was there for six years, and that was long enough.

O'Brien added that the new President Billy O'Sullivan will do a good job. 

"He was vice president to me and in him I saw the right qualities as he has experience, ability and a desire to keep Cork boxing on top and he will make the changes to meet the challenges as they arise," said O'Brien.

O'Brien was philosophical about his own leadership of Cork boxing.

"I saw a number of areas that needed change and I introduced various new innovations which may have contributed to promoting and developing the sport."

O'Brien's father and uncle were very involved with the Glen boxing club, and boxing was always part of his DNA.

The last 12 years have seen O'Brien involved at various levels of the sport, during which he became a prominent member of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association (CEBA) at the invitation of its founder member Tim O'Sullivan.

The Loughmahon man said he deeply regretted the passing of Tim O'Sullivan, adding that Tim was more than anyone looking forward to the Cork Ex-Boxers Golden Jubilee year.

Covid restrictions also deprived him of a full funeral. 

However, CEBA Provided a guard of honour, and O'Brien delivered a well deserved ovation at his graveside.

O'Brien believes that Cork boxing now truly deserves its place as a sport with a proud tradition on Leeside.

President of the IABA Dominic O'Rourke, European gold medalist Callum Walsh, President Cork ex-boxers Tim O'Sullivan and CCBB president Michael O'Brien at the IABA awards in Dublin.
President of the IABA Dominic O'Rourke, European gold medalist Callum Walsh, President Cork ex-boxers Tim O'Sullivan and CCBB president Michael O'Brien at the IABA awards in Dublin.

"It is far more difficult to promote boxing in Cork today than it was in the past," he said.

However, the sport has stood the test of time. 

When City Hall was opened in 1936 the main concert hall facilitated many boxing events.

This venue on Friday and Saturday nights was packed to the rafters during the 1930s,40s,50 and 60s. 

At that stage there was little competition and no TV and Leesiders flocked to the boxing in their droves.

"Today we live in a far more cosmopolitan sporting world as each sport is in competition with the next for athletes."

O'Brien added that it is a far more difficult task to attract young athletes to enter the ring than to take up a field sport.

However, he said that the addition of women as volunteers had made a magnificent contribution to the sport.

O'Brien was adamant about promoting a culture of equality for all and this was evident through the setting up of the male and female boxing academies.

Mick O'Brien said he was fortunate to have been in a pivotal position to observe all sections of Cork boxing. 

In the last ten years he has been PRO for his club, the Loughmahon BC, the Cork Ex-Boxers Association and the Cork County Board.

He recalls that when he started in that position, the sport was surviving, but the reality was that outside that circle most people believed that Cork boxing was dead and belonged to the past.

Many former boxers had turned their backs on the sport and boxing was getting little or no publicity. 

O'Brien believes he helped to change that and boxing emerged once again, attracting big headlines on the sporting pages.

Here, he thanked the Echo and its sport editor John McHale. 

Slowly Cork boxing once again became a well-oiled machine and readers began to follow the weekly boxing column.

All Cork boxing networks worked closely together and boxing on Leeside was creating positive sporting news.

The clubs and their coaches produced record numbers of national champions, and this success was further enhanced through many gold, silver and bronze medals competing in the World and European Championships.

Meanwhile, outside of the ring, the sport took on a new lease of life when many former boxers were acknowledged at boxing Breakfasts.

This social occasion united the Cork boxing family once again. 

Over a ten-year period more than 200 former boxers and administrators were honoured at 66 Cork boxing breakfasts.

The County Board introduced new specially designed County medals and certificates, while Leeside's young international athletes were presented with pennants.

In addition, courtesy of CEBA, all national champions received a Jack McAuliffe gold medal following a parade in Bishop Lucey Park.

Officers of the IABA and the Cork County Boxing Board pictured with Deputy Lord Mayor Fergal Dennehy during a courtesy visit to City Hall in 2018. Picture: Doug Minihane
Officers of the IABA and the Cork County Boxing Board pictured with Deputy Lord Mayor Fergal Dennehy during a courtesy visit to City Hall in 2018. Picture: Doug Minihane

Manty plaques were also erected in the same park to acknowledge many of Cork's boxing greats from the past.

The Taoiseach Michael Martin presented his father's cup each year and on the 12 of December 2020, he presented to cup during his first official visit as Taoiseach to the Glen BC.

O'Brien also reflected on being selected to replace the late Jimmy Magee as MC to host the IABA annual awards night tin Dublin.

He said that during the three years that he did that 2018 was special as he was proud to announce Callum Walsh of the Riverstown BC as a European gold medal winner and Tim O'Sullivan as the IABA Hall of Fame winner.

O'Brien thanked all those who provided great enjoyment which raised much needed funds at the Strictly Come Dancing floor shows.

The former President said that one of his main priorities was met after seeing male and female Elite titles come to Cork after a wait of 16 years.

This was achieved through the magnificent performances of Christina Desmond and Thomas McCarthy. 

Other great events during O'Beind's tenure included Cork hosting its first National IABA Convention, the boxing memorabilia exhibition in the city library and Glen Boxing Clubs centenary celebrations.

O'Brien was also delighted to welcome Olympic and World champion Kellie Harrington to Cork, in addition to extending Leeside greetings to Ireland's legendary Olympic coach Zuar Antia.

O'Brien said that he was delighted to acknowledge the great work of Board Secretary John Wiseman and the outstanding contribution of photographer Doug Minihane.

He also warmly acknowledged the advice he received over many years from people including Tom Kelleher, Dan O'Connell, Tim O'Sullivan, Mick Devane and Paddy McSweeney.

O'Brien said that Conal Thomas was a great friend of Cork Boxing over the years and also thanked Tom Murray for his sponsorship.

One of his final duties was to preside over Dan O'Connell unveiling a plaque to the boxing legend Maurice Walsh.

To many, O'Brien was blunt, he had no time from wafflers. 

He also got the job done and was proud to be President of the Cork County Boxing Board.

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