The event will take place in Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory, on the North Side. On Thursday, March 17, 2016, we will put on a “Donnybrook” in the purest sense of the word. Two team’s of Amateur boxers will square off, Team Pittsburgh vs. Team Ireland, for the Ambassador’s Cup trophy.
The event will take place in Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory, on the North Side. On Thursday, March 17, 2016, we will put on a “Donnybrook” in the purest sense of the word. Two team’s of Amateur boxers will square off, Team Pittsburgh vs. Team Ireland, for the Ambassador’s Cup trophy. Ireland’s Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist, Michael Carruth will be coaching Team Ireland.
Help three worthy Pittsburgh area nonprofits celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and raise some green to support our community programming. The Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh and the Hibernian Celtic Athletic Fund need your help to defray the cost of bringing the Ireland team all way from Dublin Ireland to Pittsburgh’s North Side. Click on the link to donate now, or ask us how your company can be a sponsor for the first of many St. Patrick’s Day Donnybrooks.
Referred to as “The Veteran Pilot of Pugilists” by local sportswriters, James M. “Red” Mason was one of the monumental figures of Pittsburgh boxing. Mason promoted and took part in clandestine matches held on barges, in saloons, backrooms, farmhouses, and even the basement of a church on one occasion, all the while lobbying for boxing to be legalized in the city. Throughout the years the names of men Red managed read like a who’s who of Pittsburgh boxing stars- Jim Scanlan, Eddie Kennedy, Jack McClelland, Young Ziringer, Buck Crouse, Johnny Ray, Cuddy DeMarco and Harry Greb.
Red was nothing if not rough around the edges. He was frequently in feuds with rival fighters and managers and he would harass opposing fighters from his fighter’s corner with a constant banter of insults and wisecracks. He was possessed of a caustic wit and when words weren’t sufficient, Red was always willing to back them up with his fists, occasionally becoming embroiled in physical altercations which invariably found their way into the local newspapers. Even in his mid sixties Red proved no less fiery when he wound up in a street fight with a former fighter who was decades his junior.
To his credit, Mason didn’t observe the “color line” that was so fashionable among fighters of the day, insisting that his boys beat all worthy contenders, irrespective of race.
McCaffrey was the first Pittsburgh fighter to achieve national prominence and acclaim in professional boxing. A quick and clever boxer, McCaffrey was considered one of the finest fighters of the late 1800s. Though only weighing in between 160-168 pounds in his prime, he regularly took on larger men and had no qualms about fighting full-fledged heavyweights. He fought the best of his era, including Gentleman Jim Corbett, “Nonpareil” Jack Dempsey and John L. Sullivan. McCaffrey fought Sullivan for the world heavyweight championship on August 29, 1885. Though the thirty-plus pounds heavier Sullivan won the decision, McCaffrey had lasted longer in the ring with the ferocious John L. than any fighter before him.
Known as “The Pride of Pittsburgh”, North Side battler McClelland was, at the turn of the century, considered the greatest fighter that Pittsburgh had ever produced. He was a complete prizefighter- speedy, durable and clever and in possession of a knockout punch. Under the management of shrewd James “Red” Mason, McClelland was able to secure bouts with the best fighters of his time. His greatest achievement was his win over the great featherweight champion Abe Attell, whom he thoroughly trounced in a non-title bout. Red Mason tried for years but was never able to convince Attell to give McClelland a shot at the crown, Abe thinking it best to steer clear of Jack. Though he may have never won a world title, McClelland still was a hero to the generation of Pittsburgh mitt-slingers that followed him. His nephew, W.D. McClelland, would become a state boxing commissioner during the glory years of Pittsburgh boxing.
Moran was a top heavyweight during the infamous “white hope” era. Before taking up boxing, he studied dentistry and played football at the University of Pittsburgh. Possessing a powerful right hand that he dubbed “Mary-Ann”, he scored 31 knockouts in 39 wins, an impressive percentage for the day. He fought both Jack Johnson and Jess Willard for the heavyweight championship of the world, making creditable showings but losing both by decision. Johnson was particularly impressed, commenting later “I never saw a man who could stand up to punishment the way Moran did. I hit him harder and oftener than I ever hit any other man, but I couldn’t put him down. I wore myself out hitting him.”
After retiring from the pro ranks Moran began a long and successful career in the movies, living out his final years in Los Angeles.
One of the most popular fighters in early Pittsburgh boxing history, Brannigan was considered the man to beat during Pittsburgh’s club wars of the 1910s. According to the Pittsburgh Press, every bantamweight and featherweight in the city endeavored to “clutch the wreath of fame from Brannigan’s brow”. This was easier said than done as Patsy proved to be the utterly dominant fighter of his poundage and could claim a victory over almost every notable fighter at or near his weight.
Patsy became a top contender for both the bantamweight and featherweight titles, but never could secure a bout with the champions except in non-title affairs. He fought featherweight champion Johnny Kilbane (five bouts) and bantamweight champions Johnny Coulon and Jimmy Walsh. He also fought Charley Goldman, who would later become famous as Rocky Marciano’s trainer. He ran a boxing gym in his later years and remained a popular local figure.
Known as the “Pittsburgh Bearcat”, McMahon got his fistic start as a sparring partner for middleweight champion Billy Papke. Under Papke’s tutelage, Tom learned the many subtle tricks of the trade, eventually developing into an all action, crowd pleasing slugger who had skills to go along with his big punch. In addition he was strong, sturdy and utterly fearless. He fought and beat some of his era’s best fighters from middleweight to heavyweight and his heavy-handed slugging soon garnered him acclaim from sportswriters as being the “New [Stanley] Ketchel”. The “Bearcat” scored his most impressive wins over men much larger than himself, the most notable of which was a trouncing of future heavyweight champion Jess Willard, whom he beat in twelve rounds despite only weighing 175 Lbs.
Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, Dime would go on to become one of the most respected and beloved figures in boxing during his time. After embarking on a pro career, he racked up an impressive record which included a draw with the great Young Griffo. Jimmy had considerable skill as a trainer as well and soon developed a stable of top fighters that he unleashed into the world rankings, among them future middleweight champion George Chip, Patsy Brannigan, Tom McMahon and Tony Ross.
In 1908 Dime and Red Mason joined forces to help form the National A.C. and open the Duquesne Gardens; seminal events in Pittsburgh boxing history. Dime had a keen eye for talent and was established as matchmaker for the venue. When he died it made nationwide news, former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey sending written condolences that noted “His passing takes away from the game one of its greatest assets.”
Born in Co. Kerry Ireland, Scanlan’s family moved to Pittsburgh when Jim was two, settling in the largely Irish Lawrenceville neighborhood. He participated in the amateur tournaments held in the Steel City in the 1890s, earning medals and accolades while impressing onlookers with his hitting power. He turned pro while attending a prizefight in which the opponent of the well-known Jimmy McCoy failed to appear. Scanlan agreed to don the gloves as a replacement and promptly kayoed McCoy in two rounds. Though only about 160-170 lbs, he was considered a “heavyweight” and showed no lack of punching power even when fighting larger men. Of his 41 known career wins, 33 came by knockout. He fought future heavyweight champion Jack Johnson to a draw in 1901.