A return to glory

adam nolan a

Adam Nolan

The Garda Boxing Club has made a return to former glory days with three members being crowned national elite champions in 2015.

In January 2015, Wexford-born Bray Boxing Club southpaw Adam Nolan turned back the clock to the glory days when the Garda Boxing Club dominated the sport in Ireland.

Nolan, a garda based in Bray, beat Beijing Olympian John Joe Joyce in the elite welterweight final at Dublin’s National Stadium and 24 hours later Laoise Traynor and Diana Campbell, also gardaí, claimed Irish crowns generations after garda boxers regularly finished on top of the podium at the flag ship event of Irish boxing.

Traynor, also a Bray BC boxer and an EU bronze medallist, won the 75kg belt on a walkover and Campbell beat defending champion Fiona Nelson on a split decision in the heavyweight final.

Campbell, who is based in Terenure Garda Station, has only been boxing since 2013 when she joined the Garda Boxing Club but has been kick boxing since 2002.

Campbell said, “The support in the Garda Boxing Club is brilliant. David Conlan, one of the coaches, trained with me a lot in the run up to the elite championships.” Campbell was delighted with the win against Nelson who had defeated her last time they met at the Senior Elite Championships.    

Nolan said, “I remember Larry Morrison (IABA Treasurer) telling me at the Championships how the Garda Boxing Club once dominated the sport and it was fantastic to win three belts for the organisation.”

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Laoise Traynor

Larry Morrison wasn’t exaggerating. Indeed, such was the dominance of the GBC in the 1920s and 1930s that the Irish Elite Championships was known in some quarters as the ‘Garda Championships’.

The GBC was founded in 1924 by W R E Murphy, who held Presidency of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association between 1928 and 1939. Dubliner Tommy Maloney was appointed GBC coach and helped build a formidable squad which formed the backbone of many of Ireland’s international selections in the two decades before the outbreak of WW2.

The men who dominated the era when the GBC was renowned internationally were heavyweights Matt Flanagan and Jack O’Driscoll; light – heavyweights Jim ‘Boy’ Murphy (who boxed for the Army at the 1924 Olympics and the Garda at the 1928 Games) and Jim Murphy; middleweights Jack Chase, (who was beaten in the quarter-finals of the 1928 Olympics by eventual bronze medallist Leonard Steyaert) and Jack Forde; welterweight Frank Cooper.

Dianne Campbell

Dianne Campbell

Dick Hearns, Larry Flood, Paddy Hennelly, Gerry Mulligan, Billy Blackwell, Dom Lydon, James J. Murphy and Ernie Smith were also outstanding boxers. Smith won Elite titles in two different weights between 1932 and 1938. The Dubliner, who boxed out of St Andrew’s BC, lost to Argentina’s Carmelo Robledo, the eventual gold medallist, in the preliminaries at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.

James J. Murphy, reached the semi-finals in LA, which would have been enough to secure at least bronze today – the decision to award both losing semi-finalists bronze was not taken until the 1952 Games, but had to withdraw from the box-off for bronze because of injury.

The GBC was at its height in the mid 1930s, but unfortunately  Ireland did not compete as a nation at the 1936 Olympiad in Berlin because of internal politics.

Uniquely, all of the garda boxers, from Chase, Murphy and Flanagan in 1932 to Nolan in 2012, only lost to eventual medallists at Olympic level.

Four-time champion Adam Nolan added that he is proud to be part of a boxing club which has played such a pivotal role in the evolution of Ireland’s mostly successful Olympic sport.

Nolan said, “Larry Morrison filled me in on the history of garda boxing and its distinguished role and I’m proud to be part of that.

“It was fantastic to win three titles in January and it’s nice to repay the organisation as they really do look after us.” 

Garda Boxers at the Olympics

Amsterdam 1928
Middleweight: Jack Chase – bye in first series, beat Alfred Wilson (South Africa) in second series, lost to bronze medallist Leonard Steyaert (Belgium) in quarter-finals.

Light heavyweight: Willie ‘Boy’ Murphy – beat Jose Montillor Pastor (Spain) in first series, lost to silver medallist Ernst Pistulla (Germany) in quarter-finals.

Heavyweight: Matt Flanagan – lost to gold medallist Arturo Rodriguez Jurado (Argentina) KO1 in first series.

Los Angeles 1932
Light heavyweight: James J. Murphy – beat John Miler (USA) in quarter-finals, lost to silver medallist Gino Rossi (Italy) in semi-finals, forced to concede walkover to Peter Jorgensen (Denmark) in box-off for bronze medal because of injury.

Featherweight: Ernie Smith – bye in first series, lost to gold medallist Carmelo Robledo (Argentina) in second series.

London 2012

Welterweight: Adam Nolan – beat Carlos Sanchez (Ecuador) 14-8 in first series, lost to eventual bronze medallist Andrey Zamkovoy (Russia) 18-9 in second series.


For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.

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