Sunday, March 26, 2023  |



Barry McGuigan remembers ‘The Troubles’

Photo by Action Images

During the 1980s, Barry McGuigan attempted to bring people across Ireland together at the height of the worst period of time in the country’s history, an era rife with war known as “The Troubles.” Over 3,500 people died in this war, which spread throughout Northern Ireland from the late-1960s until 1998.

The catchphrase “Leave the fighting to McGuigan” was coined.

“It was a bit of a cliché but it was absolutely true,” McGuigan told “The week of the fight, trouble stopped. It had a frightening effect on people, an effect of good, which I was immensely proud of.

“I felt, I’ll offer an olive branch. Ninety percent of the people embraced what I done. I wore the United Nations flag of peace; it was a very deliberate decision. My father sung ‘Danny Boy.’ We brought people together. It had unbelievable success.”

On his way up, the “Clones Cyclone” was featured four times on American terrestrial TV before he even fought for a major title, such was the positive effect he had in his homeland.

“They couldn’t believe the atmosphere at my fights,” the now 55-year-old said. “We introduced the music going to the ring. Nobody had done it before – people were incredibly impressed with it. People were almost as impressed with my father getting up and singing while his son was about to fight in a title fight. It really moved people.”

McGuigan is a Catholic married to a Protestant and has been an patron of integrated schooling for 30 years. He says, during his career, they took treacherous decisions but felt they were important for him to make a statement: “I’m a peaceful man; I want people to have a good time. There’s so much misery, so much upset. It really was a sad time. I was not going to get involved in that.”

The 2005 International Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee received a particularly poignant message that has stuck with him to this day.

“This guy wrote to me and said, ‘The IRA killed my son and I swore I’d never speak to an Irishman again and you have changed my mind.’ It was powerful stuff.”

Stay tuned for a “Best I Faced” featuring McGuigan.

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