The earliest reports of organised boxing in Dunboyne that yours truly could trace were around a half century ago or more. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that Tom Yourell – my dear departed friend, inspiration and mentor – was secretary of Dunboyne Boxing Club at the time. He was probably filling the same role in the GAA Club at the same time. Those were the days before the dual mandate was banned!
Anyway, whether by coincidence or intention, the link between boxing and GAA in the area has lived on. For many years the local club based themselves in the St Peter’s facilities and then – in a poignantly fitting development – following Tom’s passing, his former home and place of business became their headquarters.
Contributions made by people like Eamonn Gilligan and the Poleon family – among many others – to boxing in the area are well known. As are the levels of success their commitment and dedication has delivered.
While it’d be admitted that pugilism wouldn’t be too near the top of the list of my favourite sports, at passing interest at least is always maintained due to those involved.
Also, perhaps, owing to the fact that, in terms of the Olympics, many of Ireland’s most memorable days have come in the ring. There have been so many, that to start naming them would risk leaving someone out. Except for to say that our latest gold harvester – the incomparable Katie Taylor – has probably done more to inspire future generations than anyone before her.
You’ll notice that all the positivity mentioned relates to the amateur ranks. There’s been plenty of it too, thanks the excellence of people like Billy Walsh and his staff and the development of key innovations like the High Performance Unit. All of which has come on stream with a lot less funding than is deserved and has been for a long time.
Another reason the amateur ranks are a lot more admirable is that – for the most part – it escapes a lot of the sordid stuff the blackens the pro scene. Yes, there have been admirable performers in pro boxing too. Some everlasting icons like Ali, Frazer et al. Even a few decent Irish ones like Barry McGuigan, Steve Collins, Wayne McCullough and – more recently – Matt Macklin.
Yet, the dark side of things never seems far away. A major part of professional boxing now is the build up to the actual contests themselves and – in particular – the weigh ins. And yes, it does add to the entertainment value of events. You know, for all the physical brutality associated with pugilism, it’s as much an entertainment business as anything.
But still, bravado cannot quench the ominous foul stench. Whether it’s the outrages of Mike Tyson, the ridiculousness that’s now seemingly obligatory at weigh-ins or even what sometimes look like highly questionable decisions and the end of bouts themselves. None more so than at the conclusion of the recent grudge match between Carl Froch and George Groves. Still, this is box office stuff – literally. Every sport has its devout followers, pugilism is undoubtedly no different. Now, apart from the fact that they must feel more than a little miffed at times that so much of their sport is now pay-per-view, you can be certain they’re no more mad about the murkiness than any of us.
What it all does is make you very appreciative of what the likes of Billy Walsh are doing and the success they are bringing to the country. Thus doing good for the nation in more ways than sporting success. More importantly, maybe, it might generate some positivity in and about the sport at a time when it could badly do with it.