ANOTHER chapter in the illustrious history of the Glen BC will be written on May 25 next when a plaque is unveiled on Cork’s iconic Boxing Wall in Bishop Lucey Park to mark the club’s unique place in the history of Irish amateur boxing.
The elder and distinguished statesman of Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport, the Glen BC are the oldest club in Ireland having been established in the Rebel County in February 1916, five years after the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) was founded in Dublin.
Their first home was a terraced house which was converted into a club on Spring Lane. The first boxing gym of an IABA affiliated club was provided courtesy of the Goulding Fertiliser Company as an incentive to attract youngsters to the sport in the Blackpool locality.
While small in structure, the outfit provided many of Cork’s greatest boxers. The Lane was the Glen’s base until 1956.
One of the most famous of those conclaves was the get-together which established the famed Glen Rovers hurling club in April 1916. The hurlers evolved into one of Ireland’s most celebrated outfits. They continued to use their inaugural meeting place as their base until 1920.
Sharing the same domicile cemented a bond of friendship between both clubs which has stood the test of time. The hurlers established their own HQ in Bird’s Quay but maintained the link with the boxers.
Many of the Glen’s most famous hurlers trained with the boxers, the most notable being former Taoiseacht Jack Lynch and Christy Ring. As the unit established itself it enjoyed consistent success producing County, Munster and All-Ireland champions in all grades.
Amongst the greats to represent the club was Ernie Keeffe who was part of Ireland Grand Slam winning side in 1948. A fortnight after helping Ireland claim rugby’s top prize, Keeffe, representing the Glen, boxed for Ireland versus Germany.
Another fond remembrance is the title-winning escapades of Glen BC ring master Mick Leahy – who beat the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson. Leahy claimed the British middleweight and Lonsdale belt in 1963.
The first man to greet him on his triumphant return to Blackpool that year was not the Lord Mayor, but Christy Ring, who, at that point, was Ireland’s most famous sporting star.
Other greats include Jim Corbett, the first Cork boxer to compete in the European Championships who also had the privilege of sparring World heavyweight champion Joe Louis, known as the Brown Bomber.
Timmy McNamee was another unique athlete. McNamee was Munster boxing champion on four occasions and held the unique distinction of being a provincial champion at five other sports.
Jimmy “Gunner” Murray was the first man to win an Elite belt for the club at feather in 1947, while Gerard Lenihan, father of rugby star and broadcaster Donal, was Irish Junior heavyweight champion and represented Ireland at Elite international level on a number of occasions.
Tony Myers will always be remembered as a boxer with style and class, while Willie O’Mahony, son of the famous Irish pro heavyweight Packie O’Mahony, was another man who brought honour and glory to the Glen.
Paddy Martin, who will forever be known as “The Champ”, left an indelible mark on the sport – and on some of his opponents – and represented his country 14 times. Whilst on international duty in 1951 he knocked out the Italian light heavy champion and beat Joe Bygraves, the Jamaican titlist.
Bygraves went on to KO Henry Cooper who in turn floored Muhammad Ali. Cooper had a notorious left hook. Ali, being Ali, was fooling around and was dropped by Cooper in London in 1963.
Ali, after being on the wrong end of what Londoners called “Enry’s Hammer”, got back up to beat the Englishman. The Bygraves/Cooper/Ali link found its way back to Paddy Martin, father of current Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin, who became known as “The Champ.”
The Glen BC, which celebrated its Centenary in fine style in 2016, has produced numerous champions inside the ring and many outstanding administrators outside the ropes.
Today, the unit has great men at the helm. These include Tom Kelleher, who has given 27 years to the club, and Bob O’Driscoll who has given a quarter of a century.
Their hard working committee is led by President Mick O’Sullivan and Chairman Anthony Connolly.
The plaque will reflect the endeavours of all who have contributed with passion and pride over the last 103 years.
”The Glen club can reflect on a proud and distinguished past while looking forward to a future imbued with a character rich in heritage and folklore and standing proud as Ireland’s oldest boxing club,’ said Cork Board President Michael O’Brien.
Images: Mick Leahy and Cork Boxing Wall