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Just released, The Irish Heavyweight Book, by Matt Donnellon

Good Irish boxing books are rare so this new book is a very welcome addition. This is the second book from the author of “Peter Maher, The Irish Champion” which resurrected the life and career of that former great Irish fighter. From the olden days of cudgel fighting and unbelievable bravery in battle, to man-on-man with fists or gloves, Ireland is renowned for its “Fighting Irish”. 

Even before the introduction of the Marquis of Queensbury Rules, Ireland enjoyed a rich heritage of boxing success. Fabled fighters such as Simon Byrne, Dan Donnelly, Yankee Sullivan, Paddy Ryan, John Morrisey, Peter Corcoran, Joe Coburn and Ned O’ Baldwin (plus many more) won fame in Britain and the United States in the pre-gloved era.

Irish-Americans dominated the heavyweight division at the start of the gloved period. John L Sullivan and James J Corbett were the first two champions, followed by Bob Fitzsimmons, who also had Irish heritage. The top contenders had Irish blood coursing through their veins – Charlie Mitchell, Ed Smith, Jake Kilrain, Frank Slavin and others – but there were also Irish-born fighters of the top-rank, Jack Burke, Mike Cleary, Peter Maher, Tom Sharkey, George Gardner and later on, Jim Coffey and Bartley Madden. 

This well-researched book recounts their stories and those of other notable Irish heavyweights who made their mark pre-1925, and charts the fascinating history of Irish heavyweight boxers. Divided into two books, part one deals with the top heavyweights from the death of bare-knuckle fighting around 1880 up until 1925. Packed with compelling historical details from reliable primary sources this credible read eliminates bias and inaccuracies that have occurred over time. 

There is a balance of fighters included, some relatively famous (Maher, Sharkey, Coffey, McTigue and Gardner) and great fighters who were never before properly documented (Cyclone Warren, Jack Burke, Mike Cleary, Pakey Mahony, Bartley Madden and Jem Roche). Then there are the forgotten scrappers – Jim Scanlon, Denis Hough, WW1 war hero Dan Voyles, Gunner Rawles, crazy “Nutty” Curran, Olympic champion Con O’Kelly and South African champion, Mike Williams from Galway. 

The stories of these men, their battles, triumphs, trials, tribulations and indeed their lives, are gathered together as never before and explored between the covers of this memorable book that’s a must-have for all serious boxing enthusiasts.

This is the ideal Christmas present for the general sports enthusiast, boxing fan or historical buff. The second volume will follow next year, charting the exploits of Jack Doyle, Martin Thornton, Danny McAlinden, Gordan Ferris, Kevin McBride, Seamus McDonagh, Martin Rogan, Tyson Fury and many more.  Available from Amazon, in book or Kindle format or direct from the author by emailing Mattdonnellon@eircom.net. Paypal payments to the same email.

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com