Shane Forde and Dave Cotter are two of the outstanding coaches in the history of female boxing in Cork

Cork has produced one stand out boxer in Christina Demond, who has won 18 national titles and a European Elite bronze medal.
Shane Forde and Dave Cotter are two of the outstanding coaches in the history of female boxing in Cork

Referee Shane Forde gives a standing count to one of the competitors during the county finals. Picture: Doug Minihane.

THE Fighting Irish has been a term associated with this country for many years.

However, in this column, we look at it in a sporting context.

In this instance, boxing has been a sport synonymous with many young men for well over 100 years.

However, over the last 20 years and beginning as a slow burner, ladies and girls boxing has really taken off. 

Today this is a sport which is enjoying phenomenal growth.

In terms of Olympic success, Michael Carruth won Ireland's first gold meld in 1992. 

This came after nearly 70 years of participation in the Olympics, which Ireland first entered independently at Paris 1924.

Meanwhile, the ladies' boxing success has been phenomenal, and this is reflected in a period of fewer than ten years when Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington became Olympic champions in 2012 and 2020.

In Cork, ladies boxing has enjoyed a glowing period of national and international success for many clubs. 

Cork has produced one stand out boxer in Christina Demond, who has won 18 national titles and a European Elite bronze medal.

This medal gave her Elite international parity with the Cork boxer of the Century Kieran Joyce, who won a European Elite bronze medal in Bulgaria in 1983.

In underage championships, the vast majority of Cork clubs have produced All-Ireland champions. 

This success is also a great tribute to the many outstanding ladies' volunteers who run the clubs and coach the boxers.

Gary O'Sullivan, of Ireland, gets the belt after knocking out Antoine Douglas, of the U.S., in the seventh round to win the WBO Intercontinental middleweight boxing championship fight in Laval, Quebec, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017.
Gary O'Sullivan, of Ireland, gets the belt after knocking out Antoine Douglas, of the U.S., in the seventh round to win the WBO Intercontinental middleweight boxing championship fight in Laval, Quebec, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017.

In the beginning long established clubs were cautious about women's boxing. 

However, many clubs who have been established in the last 15 years have little difficulty with this task.

Two of these clubs, Togher BC in the city and Duhallow BC in the county, are prime examples.

The Togher club, under head coach Shane Forde, produced many all-Ireland champions including Leanne Murphy, who captained Ireland and won a bronze medal at the European Junior championship in 2017.

The Duhallow BC, under head coaches Dave Cotter and former international Declan Barret, have turned out many female champions.

Their triumphs include the senior title won by Connie Vaughan. 

The schoolteacher won an Irish senior title at the National Stadium on a never to be forgotten night in 2016.

However, the matriarch of Irish female boxing in this country in Katie Taylor who ignited the flame which created the glow in Irish female boxing.

The current USA coach, Wexford's Billy Walsh, famously said in 2020 that Katie's greatest legacy to boxing will be the number of young girls now boxing in Ireland.

Meanwhile, on world stage, there is no doubt that Leeside's most successful pro boxer of the last 60 years is Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan. 

Of all the great boxers who have emerged from the Rebel County, Spike has been the most proficient in that period.

At one stage, in 2015, he was ranked No 2 in the WBO rankings. 

In many of his fights, Spike enjoyed a TV audience of millions.

His journey as a pro was, at times, a long hard struggle. 

However, he is fortunate to have a great sponsor in Conal Thomas, who has been with him in the great nights of victory and the disappointment of defeat.

When Spike's career was ebbing and flowing, Conal was the man who expressed belief in his ability. 

While a world title has still eluded him, Spike can take pride in winning the Irish title, the American belt, and defeating Matthew Hall at Upton Park to win the WBO International crown.

Spike then went on to win his second WBO international title. 

That fight took place in Canada where he astonished the crowd by knocking out Antoine Douglas. 

The purse secured on winning the title ensured that Gary O'Sullivan was Leeside's most successful pro boxer.

Dave Cotter of Duhallow BC receiving an Outstanding Achievement Award for services to Cork Boxing from Conal Thomas on behalf of the Cork Boxing Fraternity. Picture: Doug Minihane
Dave Cotter of Duhallow BC receiving an Outstanding Achievement Award for services to Cork Boxing from Conal Thomas on behalf of the Cork Boxing Fraternity. Picture: Doug Minihane

Cork has produced only one undefeated boxing world champion and that was Jack McAuliffe. 

He lived in the city centre and emigrated to the USA with his family as a ten-year-old.

In the USA, he took up boxing and in 1888, won the world lightweight title. 

He retired undefeated after 11 years as world champion. As a wealthy businessman, he became a great humanitarian, and the stories of his generosity to the poor and destitute of New York are legendary.

Today the spirit of Jack McAuliffe continues on Leeside, mainly through the work of Catriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners.

This week Catriona travels to Ukraine with a convoy of aid to support the victims of the current war with Russia.

All of Cork boxing extends best wishes for her safe return to Leeside.

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