seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Muhammad Ali Fights Al Lewis in Dublin

muhammad-ali-and-al-lewisMuhammad Ali fights Al “Blue” Lewis in Dublin on July 19, 1972 and defeats him via a technical knockout (TKO) in the eleventh round.

After losing to Joe Frazier in March 1971, Ali goes on something of a world tour, fighting 13 times in six countries before defeating Frazier in a rematch in January 1974.

The promotion is the brainchild of a character from County Kerry named Butty Sugrue, known throughout Ireland as a circus strongman, whose alleged claim to fame is pulling double-decker buses by a rope in his teeth. Dublin journalists laugh at him when he first announces his intentions.

But despite the scepticism, the fight is arranged for July 19, 1972. As soon as he steps off the plane at Dublin Airport, Ali, ever the showman, immediately captures the heart of a nation by announcing that he has Irish roots. In the 1860s, Abe Grady left his native Ennis in County Clare and emigrated to the United States. In Kentucky, he met and married an emancipated slave. A century later Abe Grady’s great grandson Muhammad Ali touches down in Dublin.

In the week leading up to the fight Ali meets people from all walks of life in Dublin. He spends time with celebrities, including actor Peter O’Toole, and playfully spars with director John Huston, whose boxing movie, Fat City, is screened with both Ali and Lewis in attendance.

Ali also meets politicians, including Taoiseach Jack Lynch in Leinster House and political activist Bernadette Devlin. The Cork Examiner comments on how popular Ali has proven with politicians in Ireland. “Not since the late President John F. Kennedy was in Dublin in 1963 has a visitor from abroad been given as big a welcome at Leinster House as that accorded to Muhammad Ali.”

Ali is always about so much more than boxing, and that week in Dublin is another case in point, as the fight itself is not a classic. He has a cold and is wary of Lewis, who is a dangerous fighter and a man who had previously served time in prison for manslaughter. Ali who, prior to the bout predicts that his opponent’s chances of victory lay somewhere between “slim and none,” eventually wins with a TKO in the eleventh round.

In 2009, Ali returns to Ireland to visit Ennis in County Clare, the home town of his ancestor Abe Grady, where he is granted the freedom of the town. The huge crowds who come out to meet him are testament to his enduring appeal. But the magic of Muhammad Ali leaves an indelible impact on Ireland after his 1972 visit as the late Budd Schulberg, a legendary boxing writer, said, “Ali was like the Pied Piper. It was really kind of magical. He had enormous influence over there. He was a fellow Irishman.”

(From: “When Ali thrilled Ireland: How ‘the Greatest’ shook up Dublin” by Peter Crutchley, BBC NI Digital & Learning, June 6, 2016)


Leave a comment

Death of Boxer Jerry “Irish” Quarry

jerry-quarryJerry Quarry, American heavyweight boxer nicknamed “Irish” or “The Bellflower Bomber,” dies on January 3, 1999, in Templeton, California. He is the most visible member of a significant Irish American boxing family, which includes three other pro boxers, his father and two brothers.

Quarry is born on May 15, 1945, in Bakersfield, California and first puts on a pair of boxing gloves when he is three years old. By the time he is eight, he has won the Junior Golden Gloves at the 45 lb. class. He continues to fight as an amateur until 1964 when he culminates a great amateur career by winning the National Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship and is the tournament’s most outstanding fighter. He sets a record that is still standing today. He wins the title by knocking out all five opponents over a three day span.

Under the watchful eyes of his co-managers, his dad and veteran fight manager Johnnie Flores, Quarry turns professional in May 1965. He runs off twelve wins in a row before running into Tony Doyle and is held to his first draw. He also has two draws with Tony Alongi. His first loss comes in his 21st pro bout, against the tough veteran Eddie Machen. His loss is attributed to poor conditioning and at the time Jerry promises that poor conditioning will never cost him another bout. He defeats Joey Orbillo, Alex Miteff, Billy Daniels, Floyd Patterson, Buster Mathis, Brian London, Jack Bodell, Mac Foster, Ron Lyle, and Thad Spencer just to name a few.

Quarry loses a disputed 15-round decision to Jimmy Ellis for the World Boxing Association version of the Heavyweight title that had been stripped away from Muhammad Ali.

Boxing Illustrated names Quarry the most popular professional boxer in the world in 1968, 1969 and in 1970 is tied with Muhammad Ali to share the honor. He fights Muhammad Ali in what is billed as the return of the champ. Quarry gets cut early in the fight and receives eighteen stitches as a result of the loss.

Quarry comes along in a boxing era that many consider to be the best of all time. In the middle 1970’s he manages himself and is trained by Gil Clancy. He continues to fight on occassion until 1992. His record over his 28-year career is 53-9-4 with 32 knockouts. He is inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995.

Within a few years of his final bout, Quarry is diagnosed with dementia and is soon unable to feed or dress himself and has to be cared for by relatives, primarily his brother James, the only one of the four Quarry brothers not to box professionally. He is hospitalized with pneumonia on December 28, 1998 and then suffers cardiac arrest. He never regains consciousness and dies on January 3, 1999. He is interred at Shafter Cemetery in Shafter, California. A foundation is established in his honor to battle boxing-related dementia, a condition that has afflicted many boxers and brought Quarry’s life to an early end.