Zair Antia, Ireland's greatest coach based on wins and medals will be honoured by the Cork boxing fraternity in January

The friends of Cork boxing are now preparing to host a Boxing Breakfast to acknowledge the outstanding contribution Zair has made to the development of boxing on the emerald isle.
Zair Antia, Ireland's greatest coach based on wins and medals will be honoured by the Cork boxing fraternity in January

Zaur Antia, Aine McLoughlin and Louise Forde

ON Saturday 21st January next Cork boxing will roll out the Red Carpet to honour a boxing genius Zair Antia, the event will take place at the Rochestown Park Hotel.

Twenty years ago this man arrived in Ireland from Georgia, he was interviewed for a job with the IABA as an assistant coach at the high performance unit, and the wisdom of that appointment has seen Antia deliver a plat era of unprecedented boxing success for Irish boxers on the world stage.

The friends of Cork boxing are now preparing to host a Boxing Breakfast to acknowledge the outstanding contribution Zair has made to the development of boxing on the emerald isle.

When it comes to delivering success, this man has no peers, there is not manager or coach in any sport in Ireland can match or even come remotely close to what he has achieved. 

In Zair Antia, Ireland has the real deal in a man who has delivered Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in abundance.

Seanie Barrett and Zaur Antia
Seanie Barrett and Zaur Antia

It is ironic that Cork boxing should publicly celebrate his achievements as the IABA’s head coach. This nugget of boxing gold may never have found his way to Ireland if it were not for Dan O’Connell the former President of the Cork County Boxing Board. 

O’Connell was on duty abroad as an international official and saw the technical ability which Zair possessed. He immediately made a recommendation to the IABA and the last 20 years has seen the wisdom of O’Connell recommendation.

This year alone, under his coaching, Ireland has won at elite international level two World Championship Golds, four European Golds, three European Silvers and two European Bronze Medals. 

Now turn the focus on the last nineteen years and his success rate is phenomenal culminating with Zair being in Kate Taylor’s corner when she won Gold at the Olympics in London in 2012, and he guided Keilie Harrington to Olympic Gold in Tokyo last year.

The man who knows him best in Cork is O’Connell, they have become personal friends and this friendship has consolidated over the years. O’Connell says: "Zair Antia has no interest in boxing politics, nor does he seek publicity or praise for himself, he is the quiet man of Irish boxing who lets his success do the talking” 

Dan O’Connell himself was always acknowledged as a top international official well respected throughout the World. 

It was the late former President of the IABA Felix Jones once said of O’Connell: “he is a credit to Cork and Irish Boxing and one who could represent his Country and his sport with style and diplomacy at any international boxing congress in any part of the World."

Through O’Connell’s intervention Zair has come to Cork on many occasions and has worked with the Cork Boxing Academy and has directed week end coaching session with Tom Murray at the Muskerry Boxing Club. 

Next month Cork boxing will salute the boxing Messiah form the east, and while he will never forget his ringside glories, the friends of Cork Boxing will insure he will never ever forget his official visit to Leeside.

Meanwhile, amongst the European Silver Medal success stories of this year is Cork’s own Christina Desmond a Garda based in Dungarvan. 

The Gardai have a long association with boxing, however the most famous of all must be the legend of Lugs Brannigan.

Jim ‘Branno’ Brannigan served the Garda Siochana with distinction from 1931 until his retirement in 1973. 

However, his association with, and service to, amateur boxing was long and proud. His death in 1986 saw the passing of a truly epic figure. 

National coach visits Muskerry boxing club. Left to right: Tommy Murray (Muskerry B.C.), Tom Kelleher (Glen B.C.), Dan o Connell ( former Munster president), Zaur Antia (Irish National Boxing Coach), Michael O'Brien ( President Cork County Board
National coach visits Muskerry boxing club. Left to right: Tommy Murray (Muskerry B.C.), Tom Kelleher (Glen B.C.), Dan o Connell ( former Munster president), Zaur Antia (Irish National Boxing Coach), Michael O'Brien ( President Cork County Board

Born in 1910, Brannigan began a lifelong association with boxing on joining the police and won the Leinster heavyweight title in 1936 when he defeated Tom Penny of the St Andrew’s ABC. 

A cartoon, which exaggerated the size of the champion’s ears, appeared in local papers and Brannigan was afforded the nickname ‘Lugs’ by locals. It was a nickname that irritated him greatly.

Brannigan was a policeman who took no prisoners in the ring, or on the streets. He commanded respect and fear in equal quantities. 

As former Irish presidential candidate Senator David Norris recalled: “As a university student I recall seeing Garda ‘Lugs’ Brannigan in the Olympic Ballroom. 

"He parted the hordes like the Dead Sea to take three people who were in front of the bandstand into the back alley and rendered his own justice."

He was an old fashioned cop who believed that a clip round the ear taught more lessons than appeasement. 

His long service to the IABA saw him as official, referee and judge until his later years. On 12 October 1966, the Detective Sergeant refereed non-stop in the National Stadium for almost four hours at the Dublin vocational school’s championships, overseeing thirty-three successive bouts. 

It was estimated that Jim had refereed over 15.00 fights throughout his career. 

He retired from the boxing scene in 1983 and moved to Summerhill, County Meath, where he died in 1986.

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