The Fighting Irishmen: Celebrating Celtic Prizefighters 1820 to Present boxing exhibition launched its Dublin tour at Croke Park’s GAA Museum recently with such dignitaries as the venerable Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the United States Ambassador to Ireland, and former world featherweight champion and boxing Hall of Famer Barry McGuigan joining curator Jim Houlihan at the kick off the eclectic exhibition celebrating 200 years of Irish and Irish American boxing featuring memorabilia, artifacts and photographs on Irish pugilists.
A signed glove and trunks from iconic world heavyweight champion Mohammed Ali and his 1972 match against Al ‘Blue’ Lewis at Croke Park, the unique mummified arm of Irish champ Dan Donnelly, and a drawing of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr. from his days as an amateur fighter are among the wide array of highlights.
Pat Myler of the EVENING HERALD vividly reported the opening in stylish fashion writing: “CHAMPIONS and contenders. Old-timers bearing the marks of their brutal business and fresh-faced kids with dreams of glory. Dedicated fight fans and casual observers. And not a fist raised in anger. They all came together for the official opening of the Fighting Irishmen exhibition.”
The Fighting Irishmen has already enjoyed successful stays in New York City at the Irish Arts Center and South Street Seaport, Boston and at the Ulster American Folk Museum in Omagh, County in Tyrone Ireland. The Dublin soiree continues through the end of August.
Myler spoke with McGuigan, the Irish boxing legend, who said: “This exhibition is not just for the aficionados, it’s for everyone to enjoy. It’s also a reminder of the way boxing served to uplift Irish emigrants back in the days when they came up against landlords’ notices saying ‘No blacks, no Jews, no Irish, no dogs’. Boxing gave them pride. Great champions with Irish blood, like Jack Dempsey, were the most famous men in America. Even Jewish fighters took Irish names to try and help their careers.”
Gloves, robes, punch bags, photographs, programs, posters, paintings and film footage are among the many relevant pieces in the exhibition featuring past Irish boxing standouts of years gone by including John L Sullivan, Gene Tunney, Tom Sharkey and Billy Conn. For more details, fight fans can log onto www.crokepark.ie/gaa-museum.