All Ireland SportsLife Hall Of Fame Tribute
Online Inductee: PETER MAHER 1869..1940
SportsLife Category: BOXING
World Heavyweight Boxing Champion of Gunnode near Tuam, Co. Galway
PETER MAHER a boxer with a record of 122 wins and 93 knock outs, 21 losses and 4 draws in the world heavyweight division and with an Irish birthright from Gunnode,Tuam, Co. Galway, Ireland, is a real contendor for any All Ireland Hall Of Fame honour. Peter Maher, the Galwayman, known as ‘The Irish Giant’ was born on the 16th March 1869 and boxing was an unlikely career, and probably not on his agenda as a youth growing up in Tuam.
As a young man of eighteen, he took up fishing off the Aran Isles to make a living, before leaving for Dublin where he found work at the famous Guinness Brewery at St. James Gate. In the brewery, amongst a very large workforce, one man was feared by workers and management due to his awesome strength and muscular body. He had few challengers until Pater Maher walked through the Guinness gates. The notorious Guinness employee believed, the Tuam native would be another notch on his list of victims.
After days of taunting Peter and throwing down challenges,the twenty year old Tuam man had seen enough of the factory bully. In an arranged fist fight, in the confines of the brewery, in 1889, Peter Maher squared up to the feared bully. After two and a half hours of a gruesome battle, the Dublin born bully was removed from the complex, taken to hospital by horse and cart and confined to bed for several days to recover from the beating he deserved from Peter Maher. Workers and management gave Maher a standing ovation, and no longer would Mr. Bullyboy reign so supreme.
This needless encounter gave Peter Maher widespread publicity and people engaged in fight management went looking for Maher. After some consideration,the Tuam fighter turned to boxing to earn a living, initially in Ireland and then England. His early bouts in middleweight and heavyweight divisions, confirmed his growing status and in less than twelve months after taming the Guinness brawler, Peter Maher was set up to fight legendary Australian boxer, Peter Jackson.
The contest would be staged on Christmas Day 1889 in Dublin. but lasted only two rounds when the Tuam boxer was counted out. Unperturbed he believed in his own ability and exiled to America, where the best heavyweight champions held sway. On the 11th November 1895, aged twenty six, Peter Maher from Tuam, Co. Galway, became World heavyweight Champion, by knocking out the renowned Steve O’Donnell, who was coached by James J. Corbett.
The legendary Bob Fitzsimons relieved him of the crown on 21st February 1896, at Langtry, Texas and Maher’s reign lasted a brief three months. His weakness lay in his lack of refined boxing skills and a fairly watery chin. During his career, Maher defeated such men as Gus Lambert, Jim Daly, Jack Fallon, Nick Burley, George Godfrey, Frank Craig, Steve O'Donnell, Frank "Paddy" Slavin, Joe Choynski, C.A.C. Smith, Joe Goddard, Joe Kennedy, Jim Jeffords, Joe Butler and Morris Harris, all fighters with fearsome abilities.
After 468 rounds of boxing,Tuam born and Dublin bred boxer, Peter Maher, laid great claim on boxing’s greatest prize. For over ten years he was to the forefront of all contenders and his American popularity was so immense, it enabled him to mix with the rich and famous. Peter walked with American Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William McKinlay, and was also often seen in the company of Judge Roy Bean, Wyatt Earp and Batt Masterson, all famous Americans, privileged to greet an Irish exile from Tuam.
In the 21st century the name of Peter Maher escapes many Irish historic recordings of famous deeds by Irish born people. Blessed with enormous punching strength, pleasant easy going manner and good face complexion, the Irish boxer carried on boxing until he reached his fortieth birthday.
Peter Maher died on the 22nd July 1940, aged 71, in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. without ever returning to his native Gunnode, Tuam, Co. Galway, Ireland.
Composed by Derry JF Doody