Saturday 25 November 2017

Review: Sport: Kenny Egan: My Story by Kenny Egan (With Ewan MacKenna)

Paperweight, €12.99

Egan with current
girlfriend Sharon
Kenny Egan with current girlfriend Sharon McHugh
Champion: Egan, with his mother Maura and former girlfriend Karen Sullivan, on his arrival back from the 2008 Olympics
with fellow Olympic hero Michael Carruth

Some people who become famous overnight take the change of fortune in their stride. It's almost as if they were tailor-made for celebrity, perfectly equipped to cope with its rewards and demands.

Kenny Egan is not one of those people. The boxer, from Clondalkin, Dublin, went from little-known athlete to a household name when he landed a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics three years ago and earned a place in the hearts of a nation on the cusp of recession.

But Egan was not ready for the media glare, the financial opportunities his new-found brand offered or the hero status he was suddenly afforded. Instead, Kenny Egan went off the rails.

This memoir, launched amid considerable fanfare this week, details in unflinching fashion Egan's painful and sometimes very public descent.

The book charts his drinking, his womanising and his myriad lows with such relish that one almost feels compelled to read through laced fingers.

Those of sensitive, conservative disposition would surely balk at Egan's frank discussion of pornography, prostitutes and one-night-stands. And then there's the utterly callous manner in which he treated his family and a long-term girlfriend.

The Kenny Egan that emerges is both a vainglorious, misogynistic lout who did his best to drink away his talent and a sympathetic figure brought up in boxing's brutal world who was unequipped for life post-Olympics. The book documents his stuttering rise through the ranks of the sport that shaped him, taking the reader inside the ring for those lonely moments where there truly is no hiding place.

Boxing aficionados will appreciate this insight and the accounts of harsh training regimes in grim settings such as provincial Russia. But it's Egan's battles off the canvas that captivate most and elevate the story of a man whose career has largely stalled since Beijing. And looming large is his very own annus horribilis -- 2009 -- the year he almost lost everything.

My Story begins in March of that year when Egan and a friend went on a bender in Dublin that culminated in alcohol marathon on the other side of the Atlantic.

That he was supposed to fight in an international contest that weekend didn't register with him -- he simply disappeared, much to the distress of his mother Maura and to the intrigue of a media he had quickly come to despise.

His "lost weekend" was rife with farce. Leaving his Olympic medal behind the bar of a city-centre Dublin pub for safe keeping, he walked into his bank and withdrew €5,000, then high-tailed it to the airport with no luggage and no destination in mind.

Fast forward some hours and Egan and his friend found themselves coatless in freezing, snowy Manhattan, but with their back pockets stuffed with notes.

It was one of several escapades the boxer enjoyed/ endured that year. One day, he had been supposed to take his father to the hospital, but shirked this responsibility in favour of a trip to Malaga. Once again, Kenny just disappeared. He barely stopped drinking as soon as he hit Spain pausing only to have sex with a 40-something Liverpool woman he had met in the bar.

Egan's description of the encounter is laced with nastiness. "She wasn't great. I was exhausted and I genuinely didn't want anything from her, but I got bored and ended up giving her a lash anyway."

It mirrors his descriptions of other sexual encounters including the one, several years earlier, when he had intercourse with a Filipino prostitute: "She had a head like 100 miles of bad road. I'd paid up though so I went ahead and did the dirty deed anyway."

As 2009 wore on, Egan developed an addiction to porn and easy sex. He talks candidly about "friending" attractive women on Facebook and asking them straight out if they would sleep with him.

To his delight, he says he was inundated with offers and found himself having to schedule his week, Tiger Woods-like, to accommodate the ladies who wanted a piece of the Olympian.

Not surprisingly, his long-suffering partner Karen walked away. Egan now realises how shoddily he treated her.

Sober for 14 months and a regular attendee at AA meetings, Egan says he is trying to put his life back together again. He attributes his rehabilitation to his parents, figures in the boxing world and his current girlfriend, Sharon. There's clarity now, where there was none before.

"Sometimes I wish Beijing never happened," he writes, "because it seems cheap to sell yourself for just a single piece of silver."

Please call me Kenneth -- See Final Question, page 28

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