Sutcliffe driving Crumlin back into limelight
IN the 1950s and '60s there was a popular TV series called Have Gun Will Travel with Richard Boone as Paladin, a high-priced gunslinger from the Old West dressed all in black, based at a fancy San Francisco hotel and hired by clients to root out baddies and correct injustices.
Fast forward to 2005 and Crumlin BC could earn the tag Have Gloves Will Travel. The enterprising Dublin southside club are following up their trip to Australia last summer with a return visit in June in between trips to Spain in May and Scotland in July.
Crumlin is one of Ireland's oldest boxing clubs. Formed in the 1930s, they started winning national senior titles over the next decade and continued right through into the 1980s, with famous names including bantam Tommy Reddy, middle Mick McKeon and his lightmiddle brother Eamon, lightwelter Mick Reid, lightheavy Willie Duggan and the Christle brothers, Terry, Joe and Mel from middle to superheavy.
The club went into decline through lack of funds and interest in the 1980s but was revived in 1991 by one of Ireland's outstanding champions of the past 30 years, Phil Sutcliffe, winner of four national titles, two at bantam and one each at lightfly and fly, as well as bronze medals in two successive European Championships, in Germany in 1977 and 1979.
As club administrator and supported by a strong committee, the 44-year-old Dubliner is the driving force behind Crumlin's revival, organising tournaments, making sure everything is in order for the training sessions seven days a week and preparing club members for upcoming bouts.
"The club had gone right down when we came along in 1991 and we managed to get it up and running again," said Sutcliffe, who was with nearby Drimnagh BC during his boxing days and is also coach to the Defence Forces. "Happily since 1991 Crumlin has been able to boast over 20 champions from boys all the way up to senior level. Who knows, we could have a potential Olympian among us."
Sutcliffe knows more than a little about Olympic boxing, having competed in two. In Moscow in 1980, he was unlucky to come against the future Mexican great and two-weights world champion Daniel Zaragoza in his opening bout and lost the decision. In Los Angeles four years later he again had a bad draw, losing his first contest on points to the Italian hot favourite Maurizio Stecca who went on to win the gold medal.
"Hopefully we will do well in Beijing in 2008. Of course, the whole scene has changed since the 1980s with so many qualifying tournaments today. When I was boxing we would send about five or six with a good chance of a medal or two. In recent years, with all the new nations emerging, it's a lot harder to qualify.
"But having said that, our boys today have the talent to get through and they often need a bit of luck too. Many of these Olympic teams are not unbeatable. Three years ago an Irish team took on the Canadian side which was preparing for the Athens Olympics and we beat them 8-4."
Sutcliffe earlier had reservations about Ireland's No 1 Andy Lee staying amateur and waiting around for the Beijing Olympics, particularly after the Limerick southpaw got an attractive offer from America's top pro trainer Emanuel Steward. But now that Lee has turned him down, Sutcliffe is happy.
"I'm glad he is staying amateur now," he said. "He's only 20 and he should be fully ready for Beijing in three years time. It's every boxer's dream to compete in the Olympics, and now that Andy is going for a second shot, he should do well."
FORMER Irish amateur champions are keeping the flag flying in the US. Arklow's three-time national seniors winner and World Championship bronze medallist James Moore makes his paid debut at New York's Madison Square Garden tomorrow week against a selected opponent at welter.
Derry's brilliant John Duddy, ex-national lightmiddle champion and winner of all his eight US fights inside the scheduled distance, goes in against another unbeaten prospect, Leonard Pierre, a Haitian based in New York, in Uncasville, Connecticut on March 18. The card is headlined by Monaghan heavyweight Kevin McBride meeting Michigan's Kevin Montiy.