Irish Central – March 11, 2016
by Debbie McGoldrick
Occupation: President of the FDNY Bravest boxing team which will take on Ireland’s Garda Siochana boxing club on March 26 at Webster Hall in New York for the Easter Eve Uprising matches, with all proceeds going to charity. Tell us about your Irish American background.
“My grandparents were from Roscommon. My grandmother’s maiden name was Sullivan. After coming across the pond in the 1930s they settled in the Bronx and soon afterwards opened an Irish bar on 138th Street in Harlem. They eventually bought a large corner property a block from the beach on 108th Street in Rockaway Beach where they opened McGuire’s Bar & Grill.
“This is where they raised their four children including my father John, my uncles Dick and Al and my aunt Kathleen. My father became a NYC Police Officer before opening the very popular nightclub Pep McGuire’s on Queens Boulevard.
“I have two brothers, Mickey and Dickey, and five sisters, Gail, Myriah, Margaret, Megan and Mora. My wife Carolyn is a retired New York City school teacher and now owns Metronet Realty. We have three sons, John, Robert and Michael. John owns a successful Cross Fit gym and Robert and Michael are members of the FDNY.”
When did you join the FDNY, and how did your career progress?
“I joined the FDNY in 1981. I retired after more then 20 years of service in 2002. I responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11 where my nephew Richie Allen, who was a probationary fire fighter, was killed in the line of duty along with 343 of my brother fire fighters.
“I also responded to the plane crash in Belle Harbor in November of 2001. I was awarded citations from the FDNY for both of these tragic events.
“One of the biggest honors bestowed upon me was being named the 2011 Emerald Society’s Man of the Year.”
Was boxing always a passion of yours?
“I got into boxing when I was 12 years old. There was a boxer from my neighborhood named Johnny Sears who fought in the Golden Gloves and later as a pro. His training ethic and superb conditioning intrigued me. I loved going to see him fight in the old Sunnyside Gardens.
“He encouraged me to get into boxing and I eventually followed him to Lost Battalion Hall where I started training under Vic Zimmit. I eventually moved over to the Queens Gym where I became a sparring partner for middleweight world champion Vito Antuofermo. I entered the Golden Gloves in 1974 and made it to the quarterfinals before losing a decision in Madison Square Garden.
“I put my boxing career on hold until I joined the FDNY. Once the brothers found out I had some boxing experience I was highly encouraged to join the Bravest Boxing Team. I fought in Madison Square Garden again in 1985 and 1986 in the Battle of the Badges vs. the NYPD. I later won the New York City Metros and was the first member of the FDNY to ever win a gold medal in boxing in the 1987 World Police Fire Games.
“My last fight was against a Russian military team in Nassau Coliseum in 1992. I retired from boxing a 42-8-2 record. I started coaching the FDNY team around 2002 and have been the team president since. I was named the Ring 8 coach of the year in 2012.”
What are the FDNY matches with the Irish police force like?
“The bouts against the Garda Boxing Club from Ireland are one of the most rewarding events we have ever been involved in. To date we have fought them four times. Twice in New York once in Cork and again in Macroom. So far the home team has won each contest and we hope that trend continues on March 26.
“The hospitality the Garda team and the people of Ireland have shown us during our visits is nothing short of amazing.
“Most bouts are evenly matched and all are highly contested. The boxers do their best in the ring to beat their opponent but after the match is over all is forgotten and both teams enjoy a few pints of their favorite beverage together. There is a lot of camaraderie between the two teams knowing that they fought valiantly for the home teams charity of choice.”
What do you do to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
“Being a proud Irish American I look forward to every St. Patrick’s Day. It usually begins by marching with my FDNY brothers up Fifth Avenue. Afterwards we enjoy some corned beef and cabbage along with a good deal of joke and story telling. It is a day of catching up with people you might not have seen in awhile and celebrating our Irish roots.”
Who’s your favorite boxer of all time?
“That’s a tough question. I have followed boxing practically my whole life and admired so many different boxers from different eras.
“If I had to pick one I would have to say Roberto Duran. I was at MSG when he won the title from Ken Buchanan in 1972 and always admired his non-stop style of attacking his opponents.”