Cobk Boxing: Challenge for clubs is to build on youth success

Numbers are strong, despite the disruption caused by Covid, but talent must be turned into Elite Championship titles
Cobk Boxing: Challenge for clubs is to build on youth success

Cork boxing star Christina Desmond after national success. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

BOXING in Cork holds a proud place in the annals of Leeside sport.

Despite various challenges down through the years, boxing has always survived.

Over the last 10 years, boxing in Cork has continued to thrive with huge numbers now joining the sport.

During this period clubs have substantially improved their facilities. Proper administration on the ground and a huge marketing drive has ensured the sport has received adequate coverage in the media.

Allied to this, the affiliation of new clubs has complimented the old traditional clubs. To continue the growth in the sport many believe that the university boxing clubs should participate more in the local Championships.

In recent years, Cork has enjoyed a whirlwind of underage success. In addition to national glory many World and European medals have been won by Cork’s young guns.

However, this success must now be delivered into Elite Championships winners. Thomas McCarthy and Christina Desmond are Cork’s most recent success stories in the elite grade.

Mayfield boxer Thomas McCarthy was presented with his Senior Elite national title in Cork City Hall by IABA President Dominic O'Rourke. Picture: Doug Minihane.
Mayfield boxer Thomas McCarthy was presented with his Senior Elite national title in Cork City Hall by IABA President Dominic O'Rourke. Picture: Doug Minihane.

It was a blow to Cork boxing in recent times when three of Leeside’s greatest prospects turned professional.

These boxers were outstanding national underage champions and while sorry to lose them, all of Cork boxing wishes them every success in the paid ranks.


The Cork Ex-Boxers Association have also been very close to the tradition of the sport. And during the last 10 years CEBA have played a major part in the promotion of boxing in Cork.

Founded by former international boxers Paddy Martin and Tim O'Sullivan, CEBA members have constantly encouraged many young athletes to take up the sport of boxing.

This group has also acknowledged the outstanding success of all Cork boxers down through the years. On Saturday the 14 of May, 2014 on a beautiful summer afternoon the Olympic flag was proudly raised at a ceremony in Bishop Lucey Park. Setting the scene 100 green, white and gold balloons were released as the Butter Exchange Band played the National Anthem.

Following this the late Tim O'Sullivan unveiled a plaque honouring the Cork boxers boxing who represented Ireland at the Olympics since 1924. This illustrious group included Willie Boy Murphy (Paris 1924), John Kelleher (Paris 1924), Mossey Doyle (Paris 1924), Willie Boy Murphy (Amsterdam 1928), James Murphy (Los Angeles, 1932), Paddy Kenny, (Rome 1960), Kieran Joyce (Los Angeles, 1984 and Seoul, 1988), Paul Buttimer (Barcelona, 1992), Michael Roche (Sydney 2000), and Christina Desmond Youth Olympics, China 2014.

A huge crowd turned out for this event in the city centre park. Amongst the guests were the current Taoiseach Michael Martin. the Lord Mayor of Cork Catherine Clancy, the Bishop of Cork John Buckley, and the Garda and Army were represented by Mick Finn and Alan O ‘Connor.

Members of the IABA with head coach Billy Walsh were also in attendance with special guests four of Cork’s most recent Olympians, Kieran Joyce, Paul Buttimer, Michael Roche and Christina Desmond.

This prestigious event received widespread coverage from press radio and TV. Later that year CEBA organised a committee to examine the records of all of Cork’s top boxers over the previous 100 years.

Tim O’Sullivan chaired this committee, the proud purpose of which was to select a Cork Boxers of the Century commencing from the foundation of the County Boxing Board in 1914.

As the committee began to work, many names from subsequent generations were submitted for consideration. This involved much detailed research. The committee worked for over a four-month period, and after the elimination of many great athletes the list came down to just two boxers one of whom boxed in the 1920s and the other in the 1980s.

The criteria for selection was international representation and national success. The two remaining boxers were Willie Boy Murphy who represented Ireland at Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928. He boxed with the Army club in 1924 and boxed with the Gardaí BC four years later.

The other contender was Kieran Joyce the Sunnyside boxer who represented Ireland at two Olympiads, Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988. This was also the year his club coach, the famed Albie Murphy, led the Irish team at the Olympic parade.

The committee completed its work and at the County Board Centenary dinner in 2014, following a drum roll, Kieran Joyce was declared the Cork Boxer of the Century.

His accolade was presented by Tim O’Sullivan and named after Albie Murphy. Commentating on the decision Tim said: “Amazingly, the two boxers in contention were almost identical in results.”

A delighter Kieran Joyce in receiving the award said. “To be acknowledged by my own is the greatest honour I could receive in boxing.”

Joyce also won a European Elute bronze, six Elite titles and represented Ireland on close to 100 occasions.

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