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Excellent and Insightful Autobiography
on 28 June 2011
Boxing is a harsh, unforgiving and uncompromising sport. To become a good boxer a fighter must be dedicated, disciplined and single-minded. Boxing has been unfairly stereotyped over the years and there are plenty of examples of the `nice guy' finishing on top. Barry McGuigan is one such example.
In the 1980s at the height of the `Troubles' in Northern Ireland this exciting featherweight captured the hearts and imaginations of both Catholic and Protestants in his own country as well as having massive crossover appeal worldwide. His was a feel-good story, the Catholic lad married to a Protestant girl who wore the dove of peace on his boxing shorts and preached tolerance during one of the darkest hours for Ireland. When McGuigan fought the two factions ceased hostilities to cheer their hero on. It is little wonder then that Jim Sheridan's biography written at the height of his fame was called `Leave the Fighting to McGuigan.'
A few years later after his professional career ended another book was written by Gerry Callan and Harry Mullan with help and input from McGuigan. Yet this new book `Cyclone: My Story' is the first book written by the former champion himself.
As a huge fan I was eager to read this and learn more, finally getting Barry's own perspective and analysis on his life and career inside the ring and out.
The book does not disappoint, like his writing in the newspapers and his ringside commentaries, this book is packed with honesty and insight. He has always been an intelligent and articulate individual and here he takes the reader through his early years growing up in the border town of Clones, his amateur and professional careers and life after boxing.
The narrative is like his fighting style used to be: fast paced and highly entertaining. I surprised myself with the speed with which I absorbed and devoured this book; that is testament to the writing style and ability to describe events, being both entertaining and informative. I particularly enjoyed reading about his family: his hard-working and organised mother, his genial and talented singing father, as well as his siblings. The early part is packed with humorous incident and colourful characters and McGuigan excels at bringing these people and events vividly to life.
All the great nights at the King's Hall where he had some of his greatest triumphs are recounted here. McGuigan's challenge for Eusebio Pedroza's WBA word featherweight title was watched by 27,000 at ringside, with 20 million watching on the BBC and a staggering estimated 200 million more watching around the world. Compare those figures to the big fights today and you soon get an idea of just how much of a household name he was at the height of his fame.
Of course nothing lasts forever and McGuigan does not shy away from openly talking about the bad times as well. He is candid about losing the title in the blazing heat of the desert in Las Vegas to Steve Cruz and the terrible tragic personal events that followed after that defeat. There was the comeback and retirement followed by the McGuigan we know today: commentator, writer, amateur coach and, more recently, boxing promoter.
He talks openly and honestly about everything, the successes as well as the disappointments and heartbreaks. We learn more about the Professional Boxers Association which McGuigan co-founded with fellow boxers Nicky Piper and Colin McMillan in 1993. We learn about how McGuigan trained for his contests and how techniques on training and nutrition have developed and changed in the last few years. He also gives his take on amateur boxing and how it can be a positive force in young people's lives as well as his boxing academies that are opening across the country. There can be no doubt that McGuigan is `putting back' as the old saying goes.
This is compelling and riveting stuff and I came away with a much greater understanding of who he is. The book goes behind the image of the genial and polite former fighter with the microphone.
Simply put `Cyclone: My Story' is a must read not only for McGuigan fans (and that includes non-boxing people) but anyone who wants to read a truthful warts and all autobiography. Boxing has an engaging and highly knowledgeable ambassador in him. Bring on the next chapter!