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Boxing legend Paddy Jack Jim O'connor - a true champion

posted Apr 14, 2013, 8:11 AM by Kiskeam Area

AN EXTRACT FROM THE CURRENT EDITION OF THE JOURNAL OF CUMANN LUACHRA Louis McCarthy looks at the rise of boxing champion Paddy Jack Jim O'Connor from Kiskeam

PADDY O'CONNOR was born in Tureenavouscane, Kiskeam, on March 17th, 1921.

He was of farming stock, one of twelve children, six boys and six girls, born to Jack Jim O'Connor and his wife Mary (nee Thornton). He attended Boherbue National School from 19/5/25 to 30/6/33. He displayed no great sporting talents while attending that academy, the only talent that he and indeed the rest of the family displayed, was academic.

Before he emigrated to England, he worked at home and with farmers in the locality. His sporting interests at that time centred around Gaelic football and he won a minor medal with Boherbue in 1936.

His boxing career can be divided into three phases namely, England, Ireland and America. In fact, the England and the Ireland phases overlap.

His first taste of the glove came in 1939, when working in the building sites in London, he joined an Irish Amateur Boxing Club there. The coaches in that club soon realised that they had something special, a future champion, all going well. He was entered for a middleweight competition in Hammersmith, which he won, defeating four opponents and was presented with a silver cup worth 5 guineas.

Later on that year, he won the Open Amateur Middleweight Championship at Chiswick. Over the next twelve months he won fourteen contests in England and Wales. He was now "hot property" and managers were queuing up to "sign on" this hard hitting Gael.

He turned professional in 1940 at the age of 19 and, in his first contest in the paid ranks, he knocked out his opponent in the second round. He crossed over to Guernsey where he defeated the champion of the Channel Islands.

He returned home in 1941 and, at Clonmel, on February 26th, 1942, over fifteen rounds, Paddy defeated the then Irish Middleweight title holder, another Corkman, the stylish Paddy Roche. On his triumphant arrival home, he got a rousing reception. A torchlight procession and Cullen

Pipers' Band led him into Boherbue and there on the platform to greet him was the greatest Duhallow man of them all, Dromtarriffe born hammer thrower and two time Olympic champion at Los Angeles and Amsterdam, Dr. Pat O'Callaghan.

As you can imagine, the atmosphere was electric in the village that night. A specially prepared address of welcome was read and the poem composed in his honour is still recited with pride in the Boherbue – Kiskeam area.

We, the children of the time celebrated the day after because the master failed to turn up in school.

Many a man was K.O'd that night by those liquid knockout specialists Paddy Whiskey and Arthur Guinness.

At this stage in the 1940s, professional boxing was in a healthy state in Ireland. We had got over the 1930s euphoria created by the "Gorgeous Gael", the never to be forgotten Jack Doyle, but now in the 1940s we had such household names as "Spike" McCormack and Jimmy Ingle, from Dublin, Pat Mulcahy, Paddy Roche, "Butcher" Howell and Paddy O'Sullivan, from Cork, the colourful Martin Thornton from Spiddal in Connemara and from Belfast came Tommy Armour and future World Champion Rinty Monahan. Chris Cole was the pride of Mullingar.

Back in England again after his Clonmel victory, Paddy was matched against the best in the U.K. and the success story continued. He was a great favourite at the Queensberry Club where he had 13 bouts against the best in Britain, including Bert Gilroy, Jim Laverick, Ginger Sadd, Tommy Davis, Jake Kilrain, Vince Hawkins and Ernie Roderick.

He also fought Dick Turpin, brother of the future World Champion Randolf, in Coventry. One of his greatest fights was against Ernie Roderick, British Empire Middleweight champion, whom he beat in a tournament in London in 1943.

He was described as the hardest hitting middle weight in the world at the time and became chief contender for Jock McAvoy's title but the contest never materialised. He trained and sparred with the great Freddie Mills who won the World cruiserweight title in 1948, defeating the immortal Gus Lesnivich.

The Scottish champion had the Indian sign over Paddy. His name was Bert Gilroy and in their three meetings Paddy got the verdict on only one occasion. It seemed that the boxer outpointed the slogger. Of course, Gilroy was a cruiserweight.

We must remember that Paddy's English campaign took place during wartime England so that impeded his progress very much.

To go back to his campaign in Ireland, Paddy THERE were many poems written about Paddy, the best known being written by my late father, John McCarthy. Ned Buckley, the famous defeated Pat Mulcahy to win the Irish cruiserweight title, thus giving him the distinction of holding two Irish titles at the one time. In 1945, he successfully defended his cruiserweight title

when he defeated "Spike" McCormack in a terrific contest in Dublin. The great boxing stylist Jimmy Ingle, in a tribute to Pat, on the occasion of his death, wrote: "One night I shall always remember was February 9th, 1945, when he defeated John "Spike" McCormack at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, in defence of his Irish light – heavyweight title. "Spike" took an awful hammering in rounds nine and ten and he retired in the following round."

In 1947, with almost 200 successes to his credit and on the advice of no Knocknagree Bard also wrote six beautiful verses in praise of Paddy and describing the celebration night in 1942. lesser men than Ted "Kid" Lewis and Tommy Farr, he decided to go to America where his all action style boxing would be appreciated. There, he adapted to the new training methods under the management of Connie McCarthy and later under the legendary Kerryman, John Kerry O'Donnell.

He had 18 undefeated bouts throughout the U.S.A. including a win over a Fitzpatrick guy who was a leading contender for the world middleweight crown. Other opponents were Luther McMillan and Freddy Flora.

The American Press hailed Paddy as a potential world champion, but injuries prevented him from meeting the great man himself Sugar Ray Robinson.

Paddy, although past his best, continued to fight for a few more years. On November 1st, 1949, after losing to Billy Browne, he retired and settled down with his wife Ann in San Francisco.

On a trip to his native parish in 1986, he was taken ill and died in the capital of his beloved barony, Duhallow – Kanturk Hospital. He is buried in his wife's county, Armagh, at a place called Tassagh.

"May the green sod of the Orchard County rest lightly on you"

He was officially known as Pat O'Connor, in boxing circles he had many pseudo "box office" names e.g. The Clouting Celt etc. but to the people of Boherbue, Kiskeam and that way back, he will be always known with affection as Paddy Jack Jim.