May 292011
 

DAVID O’LEARY’S penalty in the shootout against Romania in Italia 90, Gerry McLoughlin going over the line against England festooned with Saxons, Michael Carruth’s gold medal win at the 1992 Olympics, Sonia O’Sullivan’s World Championships win, Ray Houghton putting the ball in the English net in 88.

My goal against for Prospect Priory in the 2nd round of the Moriarty Funeral Home & Pizza Parlour sponsored Division 1Z Cup at a wind and piebald pony swept Cals Park in 93 is another much debated moment in Irish sport.

That strike set a new record for deflections en route to the net, taking about 10 in all, including a ricochet off a low flying jackdaw, squaaaak, before inching it’s way apologetically over the line. We would have won that morn if there hadn’t been an opposition.

Ah, the great Cals Park, our field of dreams. Messi and the like merely have to make their way through a congested penalty area. In Cals, you had to avoid defenders, at least five different breeds of domestic dog, ponies, horses, winos, abandoned furniture, Gardai dragging a defender off the field – if it was a hurling match the bastards would have waited until full time to arrest him – and one opposing team brazenly starting a match with 13 players.They were using the revolutionary 4-5-3 formation.

Meantime, what about Eamon Coughlan breaking the four minute mile – after his 40th birthday – or Bernard Dunne dropping Ricardo Cordoba three times in the 11th round to claim the WBA super-bantamweight title. Earlier that same day, Ronan O’Gara, the hand of history on his shoulder, fired over the drop goal that bridged a 61-year gap since Ireland last won the Grand Slam.

All great Irish sporting moments. However, I reckon that Barry McGuigan dethroning the great Panamanian WBA featherweight champ Eusebio Pedroza on an emotionally charged night at Loftus Road in London in 1985 tops the lot.

McGuigan was at the National Stadium recently, trailing clouds of past glories. He was demonstrating, shadow-boxing style, how body shots could put manners on an opponent.

The shadow took two standing counts and its corner three in the towel before it was shifted off to the Mater gasping for breath, a pale imitation of its former self, ahem.

The former Irish Olympian was also at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin on Friday to launch his new book; Cyclone: My Story, a 260-page tome which has been acclaimed by Daniel Day Lewis.

Raised in the border town of Clones, Co. Monaghan, at the height of the troubles, McGuigan’s profile went far beyond the squared circle. He united people across sectarian and religious divides during a difficult time in Ireland’s political history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Catholic, Barry married his Protestant childhood sweetheart, Sandra, in 1981. An Irishman, he fought for the British Title, wearing boxing shorts in the colours of the United Nation’s Flag of Peace – and in place of a national anthem his musician father, Pat, sang a heartfelt rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ before his son’s title fights.

From the moment he took up boxing aged 11 after finding an antique pair of gloves in a derelict house to the build up to his world title fight, Cyclone: My Story spans the extraordinary highs, and lows, of McGuigan’s career.

He evocatively recreates his early days in the amateur ranks (training in a club run by farmers), his unsuccessful visit to the Olympics and his decision to turn pro, and then his progression to title-fight contender. Recollecting each of his fights, his vivid prose takes you right to the heart of training and sparring, and provides a blow-by-blow account of what happens when you step through the ropes into the ring.

Written with the perspective of a sportsman who has reached the peak of his game and then experienced life outside the ring, Cyclone: My Story contrasts professional glory with personal tragedy. Reflective and contemplative, McGuigan discusses the experiences of his daughter’s illness, brother’s suicide and the impact of the Young Ali fight to provide a unique insight into the place of success and boxing in his life.

Nigeria-born Ali slipped into a coma after he was KO’d by McGuigan in London in 1982. He died five months later. McGuigan, who dedicated his win over Pedroza to Young Ali, admitted that he was devastated.

“I went to the neutral corner and Ali did not get back up. The ref counted ten and he still did not move”, McGuigan recalled.

“I hadn’t taken up the game up the game to do something like that to somebody. I wanted to get the better of my opponent but I never wanted to hurt them. It shocked me, profoundly shocked me.”

“I was very down about it, very upset, I was questioning why I was boxing, whether or not I should continue. It was a strangely lonely and isolating experience to
go through.”

The tortured morality of little wars. Maybe it was McGuigan’s tragedy to find himself articulate in such a dangerous language.

He recalled the moment in the 7th round when he finally broke the resistance of Pedroza at the home of QPR.

“The crowd were going absolutely mad as I went to a neutral corner as the ref was giving the count. I did what any good pro should do and turned to look at my corner.

“They should be calming you down, giving you advice – “throw a left and a right, hit him with a big left hook.” But I looked over and they were just leaping up and down and behind them the crowd were going crazy. I stood there thinking, what punch should I throw now?

“Pedroza really was a great champion as he came back strong in the eighth round, but the seventh was the turning point definitely, there was no way I was going to be denied after that.”

Shot-through with McGuigan’s characteristically unassuming, straightforward and open manner that won him a loyal army of fans, Cyclone: My Story is a fascinating portrait of one of boxing’s biggest icons.

The Clones Cyclone claimed 32 wins (28 KO’s) from 35 fights between 1981 and 1989.

Is this a shameless plug for McGuigan’s new book? Yes it is. We’d do anything around here for free drink.

However, a brown envelope is our ultimate target.

  11 Responses to “Barry McGuigan’s New Book. Cyclone: My Story”

Comments (11)
  1.  

    Brown envelopes? We’ll settle for white, blue, pink, green. Whatever you have.

  2.  

    I’d even take one off Larry Goodman.

  3.  

    I remember watching him fight against Valerio Nati when he defended his European Featherweight belt in Belfast back in 1983. He knocked him out early on if memory serves and the crowd went quite mad. He had a lot of fans there fae all factions cheering him on to a well deserved victory. For a while there my brother Francie even toyed with the same style of moustache.

  4.  

    Wee Barry KO’d him in the 6th. Nati went on the challange for two World titles, lost both. The Kings Hall, Belfast on fight night…not for the faint hearted.

  5.  

    I remember a night at the King’s Hall when the actress Lorrraine Chase slapped a member of the bally brigade around the chops after he smacked her arse. I doubt she knew just how close she came that night. A real snake pit if ever there was one in those days.

  6.  

    One of the most memorable first sentences I ever read was in an article about MgGuigan. I can’t remember the paper or who wrote it, but it was excellent It went something like this. By the time you finish reading this sentence Barry McGuigan could have hit you twenty five times.

    What an attention grabber!

  7.  

    Indeed. Wee Barry had a cross-community moustache. It was probably the first example of peace-processing.

  8.  

    I came home from work last night and my wife said, “I washed your boxing shorts for you today.”
    I said, “What boxing shorts?”
    She said, “The blue ones that was in the frame on the wall. Whoever Barry McGuigan is, tell him to stop writing all over your clothes.”

  9.  

    Nice one JB

  10.  

    The Kings Hall was magic in those days, brilliant crack. One of the wits in the night of the Nati fight shouted out during a momemtary silence.
    ” We`ll never forget you Harry McGooken”.

    Barry had a wicked right hand on him, he broke several of Nati`s ribs that night.

  11.  

    I was speaking to a bloke the worse for wear from drink not so long ago. McGuigan, he hissed, I bate him
    in the Parkway in Limerick years back, says he. Yeah, yeah, yeah and I KO’d Sugar Ray says I. I”m fucking telling you I did, etc, etc. I won’t mention his name. I was speaking to Barry and asked him did he ever box in Limerick. He told me he did – in a place called the Parkway. How did you get on? Some guy from out around the Thomond Park area beat me, he said. They were just kids then.Still, our friend beat the WBA featherweight World champion – and I owe the fucker a tenner.

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