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October 03, 2010

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I wanted today’s blog to commemorate the Irish’s contributions to martial arts with some interesting links, enjoy!

Of course there were Irish catch wrestlers; Karl Gotch often tells me about Pops Charnock, a tough Irish Catch Wrestler often overshadowed by another tough wrestler of Irish decent, Billy Riley. Frank Holt is another catch wrestler with an Irish lineage (FYI, also check out Irish Faction Fighting; someone that has done excellent work in this area is John Hurley, check him out.

This year I am celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with the release of the new DVD REAL BKB: Fights of the Irish Travellers. These are championship matches among the Travellers, a group of people popularized and romanticized in the Brad Pitt feature film Snatch.

The last bare-knuckle championship fight to happen in America, was a 75 round marathon was between two tough Irish-Americans, John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain, on July 8th, 1889 in Richburg, Mississippi. Sullivan, who had dominated the bare-knuckle boxing heavyweight championship for a decade, won this grueling test. He is often considered America’s first true sports celebrity.

September 7, 1892 saw the end of the reign of Sullivan when Irish-American James J. Corbett, also known as “Gentleman Jim” defeated him for the Heavyweight Championship of the World in New Orleans. The fight was to be held under Queensbury Rules”, with gloves.

The modern era of boxing was born that day when Corbett showed that scientific boxing could defeat overwhelming brute strength when he knocked out the defending champion Sullivan in the twenty first round. Corbett successfully defended the title with a knockout win over Charley Mitchell in the third in 1894. However, three years later Irish-American challenger Bob Fitzsimmons would defeat Corbett in the 14th round to become the new Heavyweight Champion of the World (for more information, see my books The Classical Pugilism and Bare-Knuckle Boxing Companion, Vol 1 and also The Classical Pugilism and Bare-Knuckle Boxing Companion, Vol 2).

Jack Burke, Jim Corbett, Jake Kilrain, John L. Sullivan (here is a great piece by BKB scholar Elliot J. Gorn), Pops Charnock, Robert Fitzsimmons, Bartley Gorman, Jack Dempsey, Billy Conn, Jem Roche, Gerry Cooney, John C. Heenan, Paddy Ryan, John Morrisey, James J. Braddock, the list of boxers of Irish decent goes on and on… (for some biographical sketches of great Irish-American boxers click here).

Today is the day to head to the pub and tip back a beer (for some of you, root beer) or Irish whiskey and give a hearty ‘sláinte’ (this is the equivalent of toasting ‘cheers’ in Irish Gaelic) to these tough men from the island of Ireland!

Jake Shannon is the author and creator of where you’ll find a wealth of information on scientific wrestling. Have a look now: =>

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