To me it is no surprise that the Irish despite being relatively small in numbers have had such a huge impact on the sport of boxing. They have been through some unimaginable hardships throughout their history yet you wont find a more friendly and welcoming bunch of people. They have a proud and vibrant culture unlike any other with a defiant and indomitable spirit that will never be overcome. The Celts are natural born fighters.
Brief History Of Ireland
Irelands history is a turbulent one having been invaded many times. Between 800AD and 1166AD were regularly raided and pilaged by the vikings who set up settlements along the coast, most notably Dublin. With the decline of the vikings came the first Norman invasion. King Henry II became the first King of England to set foot on Irish soil in 1171. Henry awarded his Irish territories to his younger son John with the title Dominus Hiberniae ("Lord of Ireland"). Despite being occupied and the ever encroaching influence of England the Gaelic culture remained strong and the native people held onto their language and customs.
In 1845 the potatoe famine struck Ireland and it lasted for 7 years. Over 20% of the population starved to death. It is a period that they have never recovered from and has had a huge impact on the Irish culture of today, especially geographically. This event caused huge numbers to emigrate, especially to places like the United States where they were not given a warm welcome. Today, millions of residents of Great Britain are either from Ireland or have Irish ancestry. It is estimated that as many as six million people living in the UK have at least one Irish grandparent.
The vast majority of boxers share key characteristics that shape and define them as fighters. To succeed in this sport you need to have mental toughness. You must be able to overcome adversity. When you look into the background of any great boxer current or past you will always find a common theme - a tough upbringing and a history of beating the odds. Boxers almost always come from an impoverished background growing up in the rougher parts of towns and cities. Historically the Irish have faced a lot of adversity especially ones who made the trip over the Atlantic to the Americas. The Irish immigrants who fled their homeland due to famine and landed in the United States were met with a lot of hostility. Everywhere the immigrants encountered signs reading "NINA," or "No Irish Need Apply."
Many of the legendary Irish-American boxers of the early 20th century were the children and grandchildren of immigrants who faced persecution and hostility. Jack Dempsey, Philadelphia Jack O'Brien and Gene Tunney are just a few of the names that come to mind when looking back at a golden age of boxing when was one of the most popular sports and drew in huge crowds.
One man who had a huge impact on the sport is Barry Mcguigan
Legendary Irish Boxers
Thomas 'Sailor Tom' Sharkey was born January 1, 1871 and ran away from home to become a seaman. He landed in New York City in 1892 and joined the U.S Navy. His story is both unique and fascinating. Despite being relatively short he had extraordinarily broad shoulders and was a stocky bulldog of a man. He had a fearless style being unafraid to take a hit in order to dish one out. A heavy hitter by nature he would come forward and put pressure on his opponent, he drawed large crowds with his exciting come forward style. You only need to look at his picture to see that he was one hard man.
Finbar Patrick 'Barry' McGuigan MBE (born 28 February 1961) is an Irish retired professional boxer and current boxing promoter. Born in Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland, McGuigan was nicknamed The Clones Cyclone and became the WBA and linealfeatherweight world champion. He was very popular with Irish and British audiences, representing neutrality and peace in a time when Northern Ireland, where he lived, was divided by The Troubles. In 2005 he was inducted into the international boxing hall of fame.
Steve Collins AKA "The Celtic Warrior" was a two weight world champion winning titles in both the middleweight and super middleweight divisions in the early 90s. He is one of the most successful Irish boxers of all time having fought some of the best both sides of the atlantic including wins over Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn. won 26 Irish titles as an amateur before turning professional in Massachusetts, US in October 1986. Collins worked out of the Petronelli Brothers gym in Brockton, Massachusetts alongside Marvin Hagler.
Andy Lee is a humble boxer coming from the traveller community. Although he comes across as reserved he is anything but when he steps into the boxing ring. He signed with legendary trainer Emanuel Steward in 2005 and emigrated to the USA to build his boxing career. On 13 December 2014 the Irishman became WBO world champion by defeating the Russian Matt Korobov in Las Vegas. He subsequently lost his world title to another boxer from the traveller community - Billy Joe Saunders.
Nicknamed 'The Jackal', Carl Frampton has an incredible following back in his hometown of Belfast and draws massive numbers to his fights generating an unrivaled atmosphere. He is a former two weight world champion campaining in the Super Bantamweight division before moving up to compete in the featherweight division.
Katie Taylor has taken the sporting world by storm and massively raised the profile of womens boxing at home and abroad. She has a stunning Amateur record including 5 consecutive gold medals at the Women's World Championships and a gold at the 2012 olympic games. She is now making waves in the professional game boxing under Matchroom.
Michael Conlan is another up and coming boxer with a stellar amateur career including an olympic bronze and a world amateur championship gold. He has just recently turned pro after signing with top rank promotions. He has great potential to make a real name for himself with his exciting style and captivating personality.
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