Mick Leahy From Cork's Northside Became British Boxing Middleweight Champion In 1963
Cork is renowned as the prime sporting county of Ireland and amongst the many heroes who have established Cork’s unique status is a famous boxer from the northside of Cork city.
Michael (Mick) Leahy began boxing as an amateur in Cork during the 1950s, where he became the Irish Amateur Lightweight Champion. After moving to Coventry to work in the building trade, he was spotted by manager George Middleton and he turned professional in 1956.
He was an Irish born professional boxer who became a British citizen in 1961. In a career which spanned from 1956 to 1965, Leahy won the British Middleweight title and fought such names as Lásló Papp and Nino Benvenuti.
However, he is perhaps most notable for beating Sugar Ray Robinson, who is frequently cited as being the greatest boxer of all time.
Leahy made his professional debut on 22nd October 1956 in Leicester. It did not take long for Leahy to record his first victory as his opponent, Steve Gee, was knocked out during the first round.
After remaining undefeated throughout the first year of his career (16 wins and 1 draw), Leahy suffered his first loss on 28th October 1957 in Birmingham, where he was knocked out in one round by Tommy Tagoe.
Leahy fought 13 more times in the UK (8 wins, 3 losses and 2 draws) before travelling overseas to fight in Australia and New Zealand from April to October 1959.
Leahy fought 11 times in Australia, compiling a record of 8 wins and 3 losses which included bouts in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. In his last bout before returning to the UK he lost a 12 round decision to Tuna Scanlan in Wellington.
Belfast was the location for Leahy's first fight in the UK on return from Australia. The fight took place on 23rd April 1960 and the famous Corkman made a winning return as he beat Al Sharpe by a decision over 8 rounds.
On 23rd February 1961 Leahy unsuccessfully challenged the Welshman, Brian Curvis, for the British and Commonwealth Welterweight titles and was knocked out in the eighth round.
On 10th November 1962 Leahy travelled to the United States to fight Joey Archer.
Although Leahy was knocked down twice, the fight, which took place at Madison Square Garden, went the 10 round distance and all three judges finally scored the fight to Archer.
Leahy's second shot at the British title came on 28th May 1963 when he challenged the Middleweight champion, George Aldridge, in Nottingham. Mick Leahy, cheered on by 3,000 Irish fans, took just 1 minute and 45 seconds to knock Aldridge out and thus become the British champion.
After the fight Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammed Ali and Randy Turpin jumped into the ring to embrace the new Cork born champion.
This brought Leahy up against the renowned Sugar Ray Robinson in Paisley, Scotland. Although the 43 year old Robinson was considered past his best, the American was not able to fight the entire contest and Leahy was announced as the winner after 10 close-fought rounds.
He later attempted to defend his British middleweight crown for the first time. However, he once again lost a 15 round decision and Wally Swift became the new champion.
After losing to future world champion Nino Benvenuti in Milan, Leahy fought for a final time on 19th March 1965, losing to Jupp Elze in Cologne, Germany.
Mick Leahy’s career came to an unplanned end in September 1965 in a road crash that resulted in the loss of sight in his left eye and his hearing was also damaged.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease in 2004 and and he died on 5th January 2010 at the age of 74.
He retired with a—won 46 (KO 16) + lost 19 (KO 5) + drawn 7 = 72 rounds—boxed 581 rounds.