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Who Were the Most Memorable Irish Boxers?

No country in the world takes to boxing quite like the Irish. That reputation is backed up by the number of fighters that have been hugely successful in the ring throughout their career. The list of talented Irishmen to have achieved success in the boxing world is unparalleled. 

That only promises to continue with upcoming bouts on the horizon for Carl Frampton likely to be as massive to online sportsbooks as the upcoming Breeders Cup 2019 horse race.

However, which boxers have paved the way for the latest crop of Irish talent? These are some of the most remarkable boxers to have come from Ireland.

Wayne McCullough

Many people would be surprised to see this name make the list, but they are judging McCullogh’s career off his final five defeats, and those fights shouldn’t dampen the achievements that he had in the ring. He has a silver medallist in the 1992 Olympics, before claiming the WBC bantamweight title in 1995 by beating Yasuei Yakushiji.

He did lose the title years later, and he never made it back to the pinnacle, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying. His efforts made the country proud, and his fights were always must-watch occasions. He came close to getting back to the top in 1998 against Naseem Hamed; only to lose on the scorecards. The following year he went the distance with Erik Morales. His legacy remains intact, and he remains one of the best Irish fighters to lace up a pair of boots.

Barry McGuigan

McGuigan has become a name synonymous with boxing in this era due to his capabilities of training some of the best boxers in the world. However, there was more to the Irishman that just that. His boxing career inspired a nation through a tough period in history. With the ongoing battle between Republicans and Unionists in 1985, he travelled to London to become the WBA featherweight champion with a classic win over Eusebio Pedroza.

This victory ended a 15-month title reign and forced Pedroza to go the distance for the first time in his career. Ultimately, the title reign didn’t last that long, and he lost the gold 12 months later. This defeat came against Steve Cruz in a humid Las Vegas. 

The underdog took full advantage of a dehydrated McGuigan to pounce. The Irishman retired from boxing in 1987 following the death of his father but returned the following year. However, he made a comeback with a loss against Jim McDonnell, and that forced him to retire for good. Regardless, McGuigan remains an intrinsic figure in the world of boxing.

Jimmy McLarnin

McLarnin was born in County Down before emigrating to Canada when he was just three years old, but that doesn’t mean that the Irish public didn’t celebrate his successes. McLarnin would go onto become a two-time welterweight champion, before retiring on a winning note. That rarity to retire with a win and not be forced to make a comeback was a testament to his character and highlighted the pride that he had in his record and performances in the ring.

McLarnin lost the lightweight title in 1928 to Sammy Mandell but quickly responded by winning the world title five years later against Young Corbett III. The victory was overwhelming as he won inside the first round. He would then go onto compete in one of the most underrated rivalries in boxing against Barney Ross. 

The pair would do battle on three occasions, with Ross ultimately winning the majority. However, the bouts always went past 15 rounds, which highlighted how close these two levelled up. He is the best Irish boxer of all-time since it’s hard to argue with the rankings. BoxRec ranks him as the third greatest welterweight of all-time, with only Henry Armstrong and Floyd Mayweather Jr ranking above him.


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