Monday 19 February 2018

Where are they now?


(Boxing champion)

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins had a special request at the National Stadium on the night of the recent amateur boxing championships. "I'd like to have my photo taken with Harry Perry," he said.

The President was acknowledging one of the greats of the sport, a man whose great welterweight rivalry with the late Fred Tiedt packed the Stadium on many occasions. Perry won most of those fights, but he lost the one that mattered most.

"We had different styles," he recalls. "Fred was the stylist and I was the scrapper."

So when Harry won the 1956 Irish title, beating Tiedt in the final, the IABA selectors caused uproar when they selected Tiedt for the Olympics in Melbourne.

Harry's club, British Railways, took the IABA to court on the basis that they were in breach of their own rules, and a compromise followed, a box-off, which Tiedt won. As mitigation, the IABA decided that, if Perry could lose the weight, they would send him to fight in the light-welter division. He lost the weight, but with it went his power, and while Tiedt won a silver medal, Harry went out in the second round.

It wasn't his first Olympic disappointment, as he had won the Irish title for the first time in 1952 as a 17-year-old and the IABA decided then that he was too young to send to Helsinki.

By the time 1960 came around, he was nearly at the end of his career, but he won the Irish title and went to Rome. "At that stage, the Olympics was a step too far for me," he says.

He had, however, won a bronze medal at the European Championships in Lucerne the previous year, when a leg injury forced him to give a walk-over in the semi-final. Harry was an all-round sportsman, who won a Junior Cup medal playing outhalf for Terenure College and an FAI Junior Cup medal with Rathfarnham, before concentrating on boxing.

After his boxing days ended, he became involved in coaching and managing and was on the Executive Committee, pushing the idea that the elite boxers had to be brought together long before that idea came to pass.

He also went back to college to earn a degree in maths and became a very popular volunteer teacher in Bolton Street, helping students pass their Group Cert.

Golf is his sporting passion now. He is a former president of Delgany Golf Club and can still be seen on the fairways on Wednesday mornings with his brother Cyril.

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