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Darren Sutherland

Why the "Fighting Irish" have a history of Olympic boxing legends

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Darren Sutherland

Katie Taylor has gripped both the attention of Ireland and the world’s during her run at this summer’s Olympics in London. The 26-year-old is the first female boxer to compete for Ireland at the Olympics, and is also the country’s greatest hope for a gold medal this year.

However, Taylor isn’t the only hope Ireland has for boxing glory this year. The Wicklow native shares the limelight this year with two other Irish boxers - Michael Conlan from Belfast, and John Joe Nevin from Mullingar. At the moment, both of the Irish male boxers are guaranteed to be bringing home at least a bronze medal to Ireland.

Taylor, Conlan and Nevin join an impressive list of Irish boxers who have made their ways to the Olympics in the past. While there are many talented Irish boxers - some who have attended the Olympics and some who have not - here’s a list of other great Irish boxers who made it to the Olympics:

DARREN SUTHERLAND, Co Meath
Sutherland, born in Dublin, competed and won the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, which he wrote on his Facebook page to be his greatest achievement. Prior to his Olympic debut, Sutherland won the Leinster senior title in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Sadly, Sutherland died tragically in 2009, aged 27, from an apparent suicide.

ANDY LEE, Co Limerick
Lee was born in 1984 England to Irish parents, and relocated to Limerick when he was four years old. In 2002, he won the silver for Ireland at the World Junior Championships. In 2004 and 2005 he claimed the Irish Senior title for boxing. Lee fought in the 2004 summer Olympics as the only Irish boxer in Athens, but didn’t win any medals. Afterwards, Lee said "I just didn’t fight to my ability. But when I got back home the people treated me like I’d won the gold medal."

SAM STOREY, Belfast
Born the son of Irish National Coach, Belfast native Sam Storey was introduced to boxing at a young age. As a boxer, Storey went on to win every amateur title in Ireland and represented his country in the European, Commonwealth and the 1984 summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Though he was favored to win the gold in 1984, a broken thumb a few weeks before the games kept him off the podium.

KEVIN MCBRIDE, Co Monaghan
A native of Clones in Monaghan, Kevin McBride represented Ireland in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He didn’t medal in Spain, but his career was defined in 2005 when he defeated famous boxer Mike Tyson via a 6th-round TKO at a match in Washington, DC. Following the fight, and partly citing old age, Tyson retired and apologized to his fans who had paid to see the fight.

BRIAN MAGEE, Belfast
Magee represented Ireland at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

WAYNE MCCULLOUGH, Belfast
A two-time Olympian, McCullough competed at the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. At those ceremonies, he carried the flag for Ireland - despite being raised on loyalist Shankill Road in Belfast - during the opener as he was the youngest member of the team at only 18 years old. Later, at the 1992 summer Olympics in Barcelona, McCullough brought home the silver medal for Ireland.

MICHAEL CARRUTH, Dublin
After failing to bring home a medal from the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Dublin-born Carruth achieved glory at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona when he won a gold medal for Ireland, the country’s first gold since its win in 1956 for track.

JOHN CALDWELL, Belfast
Born in Belfast in 1938, Caldwell became one of Ireland’s first boxers at the Olympics. At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, he took home the bronze medal in the flyweight division.  Following the Olympics, Caldwell said, “it was the most successful set of Irish boxers ever to go to an Olympics as we won four bronze medals. But it was such an honour to be picked and I was so overjoyed to be representing Ireland on such a stage.”

FREDDIE GILROY, Belfast
Gilroy, born in 1936 Belfast, took home the bronze at the 1956 summer Olympics in Melbourne. Gilroy joined other Irish boxer John Caldwell is securing bronze at those games.

BARRY MCGUIGAN, Monaghan
McGuigan, a native of Clones in Monaghan, competed at the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow. McGuigan is nicknamed ‘The Clones Cyclone’ for his boxing abilities.

KENNY EGAN, Dublin
Egan, a native of Clondalkin, won a silver medal as a light heavyweight at the Beijing Games in 2008. During the London Olympic Games in 2012, Egan served as a boxing analyst for RTE. In June 2012, he carried the Olympic torch through a stretch in Dublin as it made its tour around Ireland and the UK.

To learn more about Ireland’s history of boxing at the Olympics, check out Breandan O Connaire, former President of the IABA, article here.
 

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