Best Boxers from Ireland in History
Few countries have stronger associations with the Sweet Science than Ireland does. Irish boxers have long been prominent in professional boxing, from the beginnings of the sport as we know it today, all the way through the present. With all of that said, take a look at the top 5 boxers in history from Ireland.
- Jimmy McLarnin (Career: 1923-1936): A great fighter with a resume to back it up. On his way up, “Baby Face” racked up wins over Hall of Fame talent like Pancho Villa, Fidel LaBarba, Jackie Fields, Bud Taylor, and Kid Kaplan. Lost in a lightweight title try to Sammy Mandell, but beat him twice in subsequent non-title fights. Went on to defeat Al Singer and won 2 of 3 against Billy Petrolle. Defeated aging legend Benny Leonard, before upsetting Young Corbett III for the welterweight title. Lost title to all-time great Barney Ross, won it back in the rematch, before losing the rubber match. Finished career with wins over Tony Canzoneri and reigning lightweight champion Lou Ambers. Amazingly, 15 of his 54 wins were against fighters in the IBHOF.
- Jack Dempsey (Career: 1883-1895): Called the “Nonpareil,” Dempsey was virtually unmatched in his prime, combining ahead-of-their-time skills with a heady disposition to forge a great career. Born in Ireland, Dempsey did all his fighting stateside and despite not weighing much more than 150 pounds, beat light heavyweights and heavyweights.
- Rinty Monaghan (Career: 1934-1949): Flyweight Champion reigned from 1947-1949 and had an indomitable fighting spirit. Twice knocked out fellow-stellar flyweight Jackie Paterson and scored a 1st-round knockout over future Flyweight Champion Terry Allen. Those triumphs led to a title-winning triumph over Dado Marino in 1947. Fought a draw with Allen in final fight and retired as world champion—with his career cut short by illness at 29.
- Tom Sharkey (Career: 1893-1904): At 5’8,” the rough-and-tumble Irishman thrived against top heavyweights from the era. The hard-hitting Sharkey underlined his potential with a win over leading heavyweight Joe Choynski, before drawing with unbeaten Gentleman Jim Corbett. In 1896, beat Bob Fitzsimmons by disqualification, due to some handiwork from referee Wyatt Earp. Lost a 20-round battle with Jim Jeffries, becoming the only man to give the young future champ a run for his money. Wins over Corbett and Kid McCoy led to a title try against Jeffries, where Sharkey lost in another well-contested fight.
- Jack McAuliffe (Career: 1985-1897): Retiring without ever absorbing a loss, this 19th century Lightweight Champion reigned from 1886 to 1893. A boxer of immense skill, speed, and power, McAuliffe was the first fighter to beat masterful Young Griffo in 76 fights.
Of course there are many other prominent Irish boxers who missed the cut and aren’t included in the top 5. Irish boxers and their fans have a special place in the history of the Sweet Science, that’s for sure.