Posts Tagged ‘boxing’

Within sight of O’Connell Street, a plaque adorns the wall of an innocuous red brick house that reads: ‘A tribute to the champion boxers and the people of the Sean McDermott Lr. Gardiner Street area 1930-1940.’ The house sits on the corner of the aptly named ‘Champions Avenue,’ the street taking its name from the several boxing champions the area produced throughout the thirties and forties. Gardiner Street and Sean McDermott Street spawned a good many talented fighters- Paddy Hughes, Peter Glennon, Mickey Gifford and Mylie Doyle among them. But arguably the most famous was John ‘Spike’ McCormack.

Though Spike would become synonymous with the north inner city, he was born in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 1919. The McCormack family moved to Dublin when he was eight and Spike would take up boxing soon after, fighting amateur by the early thirties. In 1939 along with Peter Glennon and Mickey Gifford he went to America with the Irish amateur boxing team to fight against the Chicago ‘Golden Gloves’ (amateur champions) in Soldiers’ Field, Chicago. The trio returned home as victors with the Irish team matching their hosts, gaining five victories apiece.

Either side of his trip to the US Spike enlisted in the British Army, his strength and physical fitness leading him to become a Commando. It was his sense of adventure that led him to join the British Army rather than the Irish one, his son Young Spike remembering him saying ‘Hitler took Poland by storm and Ireland by telephone.’ Initially stationed in Scotland, he boxed over there and was highly thought of, even receiving an offer from a promoter to buy him out of his service. Once, while there according to Frank Hopkins ‘the night before St. Patricks Day in Kilmarnock, he painted a statue of King Billy green to aggravate the town’s Orangemen.’


In 1943 during his second spell with the army, an expeditionary raid down the French coast ended in a short but brutal clash and Spike sustained an injury to his thigh from a grenade blast. He returned to Ireland and whilst recuperating in the Mater Hospital was approached to fight Jimmy Ingle in what was to be the latter’s last amateur fight but not the last fight between the two men who had a competitive rivalry throughout their careers. Feeling the exertions with the injuryhe was carrying he went down in the third round, exhausted. According to his son ‘Young Spike’ in Kevin Kearns’ Dublin Voices

They took off his shorts and saw this big hole in his side and they said ‘Jesus Christ, he shouldn’t have been able to stand. So Jimmy Ingle turned professional but my father said ‘I’ll get him back when I’m good.’ So my father turned professional- just to get back at Jimmy Ingle.


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