Tim O’Sullivan, the father of Cork boxing, was recently honoured by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Chris O’Leary, for 70 years of service to the promotion and development of boxing on Leeside.
At a very pleasant ceremony, O’Sullivan was joined by family and friends at City Hall to mark a lifetime of service to the noble art.
Among the attendance were the President and CEO of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), Pat Ryan and Fergal Carruth, Gerry O’Mahony, President of the Munster Council, County Board and Cork Ex Boxers Association (CEBA) officials and hosts of friends from various sporting organisations.
The IABA President and CEO also attended the recent opening of the Cork County Boxing Board interim headquarters at Churchfield, where Fergal Carruth spoke passionately of the contribution of Leeside to Irish boxing.
The Lord Mayor outlined the highs of O’Sullivan’s career and stressed that he left an indelible mark on the boxing landscape.
Pat Ryan added that his beneficence to boxing was legendary, pointing out that O’Sullivan’s legacy would be cherished and remembered.
“His contribution has been enormous over an extraordinary period of time,“ acknowledged the IABA chief.
O’Sullivan boxed for Ireland on numerous occasions and was a final trialist for the Irish squad for the 1948 Olympic Games in London.
That Olympiad took place at Earls Court. Many believe that O’Sullivan should have been selected and the IABA subsequently presented him with a specially commissioned silver medallion in recognition of his international prowess.
O’Sullivan was born in Sundays Well in the northside of the city. He had three brothers and five sisters. His early education was provided at the famous Blarney CBS. When he was ten-years-old, his father, a Kerryman, immigrated to England for work and took his family with him.
It was in London that O’Sullivan developed an interest in boxing at a local grammar school. The family returned to Cork after a number of years and settled in the city centre, with O’Sullivan continuing his education at the South Mon on Douglas street.
He played football with Rock Rovers and hockey with Harlequins before eventually becoming involved, aged 18, with the CCNBC club run by the Christian Brothers in Lavitts Quay.
O’Sullivan made rapid progress and was selected on many Cork and Irish teams. His first international outing, which he won, was against the USA. A seasoned international at this point, he became a major draw throughout Ireland from City Hall in his hometown to City Hall in Belfast.
He also had the distinction of being the last man to compete on a barge at the High Seas tournament in Cobh in the 1940s. Times were tough during WW2 and O’Sullivan was once presented with a loaf of bread after winning a bout in Agabollougue.
Following that presentation he affectionately became knows as the “bread winner”, but as O’Sullivan, pointing to a magnificent Foxford rug he won later in his career, often said, “man can’t live by bread alone.”
O’Sullivan favourite boxers were Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis. The Corkman made friends with English and German legends Henry Cooper and Karl Mildenberger, both of whom were beaten by his idol Ali. The great John Conteh was another friend.
In 1972, at an All-Ireland hurling final, O’Sullivan met the equally great Maxie McCullagh. O’Sullivan attended a meeting of the Dublin Ex Boxers Association with McCullagh and brought the idea back to Cork, and, hand in glove with his friend “Paddy “The Champ” Martin, founded the Cork Ex Boxers Association (CEBA) which today is at its strongest ebb in 43 years.
O’Sullivan has served in every capacity with CEBA and was coach to the Ballinlough BC. He brought many international teams to Cork, including the great Polish squad of 1984. For 59 years O’Sullivan worked as a physio from his own premises on Maylor street.
His expertise as an injury advisor was much sought after by athletes from all codes throughout Ireland. In 1975, O’Sullivan was physio to the Mick O’Dwyer led Kerry squad who would go on to become the greatest football team of all time.
O’Sullivan was also physio to a number of famous touring rugby teams, including the All Blacks, Australia and Springboks and worked with League of Ireland sides Cork Athletic, Evergreen and Cork Hibs.
During the Olympic ceremony at the Centenary celebrations of Cork boxing at Bishop Lucey Park last year, Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin referred to O’Sullivan as a boxing encyclopaedia and during a visit to Áras an Uachtaráin, President Michael D. Higgins described the Leesider as one of the great boxing ambassadors.
After 70 years of outstanding service to the sport, it was timely and fitting that O’Sullivan was hailed last Tuesday.
The Lord Mayor said: “His contribution may be matched, but it will never be surpassed.”
More pictures from City Hall Cork and interim headuarters of the CCBB at Churchfield. Pictures courtesy of Doug Minihane.