Barry McGuigan (MBE): A Biography!

Barry McGuigan
Date of Birth:February 28, 1961
Place of Birth:Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland
Nationality: Irish, British Citizen
Gym(s): Wattlebridge Boxing Club, Smithboro Boxing Club, Immaculata Boxing Club
Manager: Barney Eastwood
Coaches:Eddie Shaw
Boxing Career: Amateur, Professional, Boxing Pundit, Promoter
Nicknames: The Clones Cyclone
Height: 5 Ft 6 inches. 168cm
Reach: 70 inches. 178cm
Weight Class:Featherweight
Professional Record: Total Fights: 35, Wins: 32, Wins by KO: 28, Losses: 3, Draws 0, No contests 0
Notable Fights:Barry McGuigan vs Peter Eubank I, II, Barry McGuigan vs Young Ali, Barry McGuigan vs Juan Laporta, Barry McGuigan vs Eusebio Pedroza, Barry McGuigan vs Bernard Taylor, Barry McGuigan vs Danilo Cabrera, Barry McGuigan vs Steve Cruz


Barry McGuigan or Finbar Patrick McGuigan to give him his full birth name, is a unique former professional boxer who was born in Clones, in the Republic of Ireland yet initially trained just across the border in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for whom he subsequently represented in the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada. Thereafter, however Barry McGuigan would represent the Republic of Ireland at the 1980 Summer Olympics, in Moscow yet still become a UK Citizen later so he could compete for British titles. 

In an era in Ireland known as “the troubles” this was rather a precarious thing to do! 

Early Life and Amateur Career  

Barry McGuigan’s juvenile boxing career began at the Wattlebridge amateur boxing club, County Fermanagh at the age of 12. Later he would move on to the Smithboro amateur boxing club in County Monaghan where under the tutelage of Frank Mulligan and Danny McEntee he would establish himself as an outstanding boxer, who would go on to win The All Ireland Amateur Championship in 1976 by defeating Martin Brereton.

The undisputed highlight of Barry McGuigan’s amateur career however was winning the Bantamweight Gold Medal at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada in 1978. Yet for many, this was not considered as important as what Barry McGuigan achieved in doing so. He brought happiness and hope to a troubled and divided nation. Barry McGuigan recognising this at the time with a remarkable tacit appeal for ‘unity’ when he eschewed the National anthem of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on his victory podium – and chose the ‘all Irish” neutral ‘folk ballad’, “Danny Boy” to be played instead.

Barry McGuigan and The 1980 Olympics.

Prior to turning professional Barry McGuigan would represent The Republic of Ireland at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, rather than Northern Ireland as he had previously done in the Commonwealth Games. Competing this time at featherweight, Barry McGuigan would not bring back gold but still gave a good account of himself on the ‘world stage’ in defeating Issack Mabushi of Tanzania when the referee stopped the fight in the third round. Ultimately losing to Winfred Kabumda of Zambia in round 16.

The Professional

Barry McGuigan’s professional career would begin successfully at Dalymount Park, Dublinon the 10th May 1981, when he beat Selvin Bell by technical knockout in the second round. McGuigan’s second fight against Gary Lucas at the Empire Pool, Wembley (now known as the Wembley Arena) ending also with a TKO in the fourth round. Stiffer competition was to come though and Barry McGuigan would endure his first loss.

Barry McGuigan’s: First Loss

Fighting Peter Eubanks (elder brother of Chris Eubank) on Eubanks’ home turf at the Corn Exchange, Brighton, McGuigan would lose a highly controversial and hotly disputed decision over eight rounds. The reason; the decision by referee Roland Dalkin gave victory to Peter Eubanks by an unfathomable half point – 78 and half to 78. Boxing Rec unbelievably registering it as factual here.

To say Barry McGuigan was aggrieved would be an understatement. Therefore it was not surprising that he followed up his loss with two consecutive victories to earn a rematch with Peter Eubanks and gain revenge via an eighth round stoppage. The victory all the more sweet as it was held at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Ireland.

Barry McGuigan: A Blistering Start, Beset by Tragedy

In 1982 Barry McGuigan would fight eight times and win seven of those eight fights inside the distance. It was McGuigan’s sixth fight on the 14th June, 1982 however which shook Barry McGuigan’s moral compass to the core and forced him to question whether he could continue to box. For although Barry McGuigan was apolitical regarding the troubles of his country, he was a deeply religious (Catholic) man and his KO of Young Ali, who subsequently fell into a coma and died, troubled him deeply. His thoughts and feelings on the subject are articulated by the man himself here:

Barry McGuigan: First British Title

After taking the spiritual advice of his faith and contemplating how hard he had worked to reach his current status, Barry McGuigan albeit with a heavy heart would continue on. Winning the vacant British featherweight title from Vernan Penrose by TKO in the 2nd round at the Ulster Hall, Belfast on the 12th of April, 1983. Following his success, McGuigan would defend his title three times, all of which through knockout or TKO inside the distance and which would see him reach the next step of his stepping stone to a world title.

Barry McGuigan: First European Title

On the 16th of November 1983 Barry McGuigan fought and defeated Valerio Nato for the vacant EBU featherweight European title. McGuigan, winning by KO over the future junior titlist holder in 6 rounds at the Kings Hall, Belfast.

Eight more fights (six in 1994 and two in 1995) including 3 title defences followed for Barry McGuigan who won them all inside the distance before earning his world title shot. 

Barry McGuigan: First World Title

Barry McGuigan’s penultimate fight leading into his championship bout with Eusebio Pedroza was without doubt a pivotal ‘lead up fight’ and no doubt chosen specifically against the battle-hardened Juan Laporte to prepare McGuigan for the battle that was to come.

McGuigan would win; but the margin of victory was only two points, which further highlighted the importance of the ‘experience’ itself in preparing McGuigan for a fight against a long-reigning champion like Eusebio Pedroza. The Panamanian legend having held the WBA and lineal featherweight championship from 1978 to 1985 and in doing so also made 18 defences against 18 different contenders.*

*At the time, more than any other boxer in featherweight history.

Barry McGuigan vs Eusebio Pedroza

On the 8th of June, 1985 at Loftus Road Stadium – The Home of Queen’s Park Rangers, Football Club, 26,000 fans would physically attend, whilst 19 million others would tune in on television. In doing so they would not be disappointed. Barry McGuigan fought the fight of his life to win by a lopsided unanimous decision (148-138) (149-139) (147-140) and send the Irish and United Kingdom fans into delirium. Take a look.

Barry McGuigan: Victory and what it meant

A short while after his victory Barry McGuigan would recognise its significance when he stated 

‘We have brought the people of Ireland together” before going on to say,

“The Greatest moment of my life was coming home to Belfast and Dublin…..

75,000 people gathered in one hour in Belfast. Two days later, in Dublin, 200,000 people came out to see me. It took me one hour to go the length of O’Connell Street, up to the Mansion House, the greatest day of my life. To know what it meant to people both north and south of the border, it was phenomenal. 15,000 in my hometown, they drank for a week.”

Barry McGuigan, through the sport of boxing had done what no other person in Ireland had done through either violence or politics, he had brought some unity and the hope of reconciliation to the Nation. So much so that a ubiquitous phrase was even coined: 

Leave the fighting to McGuigan!”

Barry Mcguigan Title Defences

It would not take long before Barry McGuigan sought to defend his title. Just three months in fact before he returned to action in a bout against his mandatory challenger – the unbeaten and highly regarded American, Bernard Taylor. The bout took place at McGuigan’s ‘home from home’ Kings Hall, Belfast, where the crowd gave Barry an added advantage. Indeed, in a interview with The Ring, it was revealed that

“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,” …… “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.”

Barry McGuigan vs Bernard Taylor

The bout took place on the 28th of September, 1985 against a man whose undefeated record’s only blemish was a draw against the man he had just beat for the title, Eusebio Pedroza. Highlights of the bout are provided here

With some interesting comments from the famed Boxing commentator Harry Carpenter just about audible over the raucous crowd!

Barry McGuigan’s own preparation and plan for the fight is recollected here:

“I looked at several of his fights beforehand and, every time I watched him, I thought, ‘How the hell am I gonna beat this guy?’ because, every time I looked at him, he was so fast. But I knew he couldn’t fight at my pace, so we started off and I just walked him down, head movement, close tight guard and I could feel him as I was hitting him.

“I knew (I) was going to lose possibly four, five rounds but I closed him down and he couldn’t take the pressure. He couldn’t fight at that pace.

“In the seventh round, I buried a left hook to the body, nothing, the noise was deafening, I gave him a little shove and, when I gave him a shove, he made a noise and I knew he was gone.”

Barry McGuigan: Victory in Ireland but defeat in Vegas

On the 15th of February, 1986 in Dublin Ireland, the Dominican Republican fighter Danilo Cabrera (23-2-0) would be the next to attempt to take Barry McGuigan’s title from him. In a tough but enthralling fight McGuigan would prove his mettle, though he needed 14 of 15 Rounds to stop Cabrera by TKO.

Prior to the summer of 1986 when Barry McGuigan fought the relatively unknown Steve Cruz in an outdoor fight at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, McGuigan had only fought once outside the United Kingdom. This factor coupled with the searing heat, and soaring temperatures were undoubtedly major contributory reasons for his shock loss.

Barry McGuigan vs Steve Cruz

The fight would take place on the 23rd of June, 1986. In approaching the halfway stage, it appeared Barry McGuigan was comfortable and ahead yet the temperatures that day were recording up to 110 degrees. Therefore, it was little surprise in retrospect when the temperature sapped McGuigan’s energy in the second half of the fight, contributing gravely to his loss. Dropped in the 10th, penalised a point for low blows in the twelfth and touched down twice in the 15th round, Barry McGuigan eventually lost more to the elements and an unwise decision to fight outdoors than he lost to the man he was fighting. 

The close score cards bore this out* (141-142, 142-143, 139-143) with few of the boxing community doubting, had the fight been held indoors McGuigan, (of fair skin and a country not accustomed to heat) would not have faded so badly or likely lost to the 5-1 underdog Steve Cruz. Indeed, it is telling that McGuigan spent the night in a local hospital afterwards; due to dehydration.

This withstanding TheRing Magazine voted it their “Fight of the Year”

*Nb Barry McGuigan was leading by two points on two of the official three score cards going into the 15th and final round.

Barry McGuigan: Retirement

Following this loss and the WBA featherweight title (which he would never reclaim) Barry McGuigan retired. At first this was partly put down to the death of his father ‘Pat McGuigan’ in 1987 who had been his greatest inspiration. Barry McGuigan stating “without him he felt no reason to continue boxing”. However, an acrimonious split with his once inseparable manager Barney Eastwood also had a great impact on things. The details of which can be read about here.

Barry McGuigan: Comeback, Retirement

Barry McGuigan would nevertheless return to the ring almost two years later under the management of Frank Warren. Three impressive stoppage wins later, all in under eight rounds, would give hope that McGuigan could return to his best for he was still only young. Yet a loss to Jim McDonell in May of 1989 would see Barry McGuigan retire from boxing for a final time, despite being only 28 years of age. 

Barry Mcguigan retired with a record of 32-3 (with 28 knockouts) and never returned again. Articulating why in his own words

“I was burned out physically and mentally,” he explained. “My appetite for the game, and all of what happened with my ex-manager, it made me sick to my stomach.”

Barry McGuigan Personal Life 

Barry McGuigan is a Catholic who as of writing is still married to his childhood sweetheart Sandra McGuigan (a Protestant) and live in Kent, England with their four children. Barry McGuigan remains the founder and CEO of ‘Cyclone Promotions’ and is assisted in running it by two of their sons, Blane and Jake. His other son, Shane runs Barry McGuigan’s gym in Battersea, London. Tragically their only daughter Danika McGuigan lost her battle with colon cancer on the 23rd of July 2019.

Barry McGuigan: Notable, achievements, facts and accolades

Noted for his stamina, courage, durable chin and a wicked left hook to the body, Barry McGuigan’s popularity transcended boxing. Ireland as a Nation would stand together for his bouts and violence would stop in the weeks leading up to the ‘Cyclone from Clones’ fights. All despite the fact Barry McGuigan steadfastly refused to take sides on the matter and remained apolitical on the issue throughout his career. See the following article for an interesting insight into Barry McGuigan’s reasons and also concerning the troubles of the time.

Awards, and a bit more! 

  • Barry McGuigan was the WBA and lineal featherweight champion from 1985-1986. 
  • Barry McGuigan won the 1985 BBC “Sports Personality of the Year.” Making him the first person not born in the Uk to win the award. 
  • Barry McGuigan’s father ‘Pat McGuigan’ was a professional singer who would sing “Danny Boy” in the ring before his sons fights.
  • Barry McGuigan is considered one of the greatest fighters to come out Ireland as well as a national hero.
  • Barry McGuigan is a dual citizen of both Ireland and the United Kingdom

An atmospheric compilation of Barry McGuigans ‘greatest hits’ set against ‘the troubles’ is viewable here

Barry McGuigan was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.

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