Sunday, July 12, 2015

TBG Book Review: Irish Champion Peter Maher

 The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review By Peter Silkov

"The Irish Champion Peter Maher:  The Untold Story of Ireland's Only World Heavyweight Champion and the Records of the Men He Fought"  Written by Matt Donnellon

This is the spectacular story of an Irishman who grew up in the poverty of Galway, and Dublin, in the latter part of the 19th century, but fought his way out of poverty with his fists. Peter Maher was one of Ireland’s earliest sporting celebrities and one of the most popular fighters of his time. Standing a little less than six feet tall and weighing about 175 to 180 pounds at his peak, Maher was one of the top heavyweight fighters in the world throughout the 1890s, and at one point in 1895, had a claim to being the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Maher was an extremely colourful and charismatic character, both in the ring, and outside of it. As a fighter, he was all-action and little science. He was a slugger with a big punch, whose fights were, more often than not, toe-to-toe blood baths that thrilled the spectators of the time. Outside of the ring, Maher was a jovial sociable fellow, who was more inclined to spend his time in bars and clubs than in the gym training.  Early in his career, Maher was fond of a drink, and as time went on and he found fame and money, this side of his life style became more of a problem. Unsurprisingly, given his dislike of the rigors of training, Maher’s boxing career was very much a roller coaster ride, with him either winning via a knockout or being knocked out himself. However, generally at his peak, Maher’s punching power proved too much for all, but the very best fighters. During a career that ran from 1887 to 1913, Maher faced nearly all of the leading heavyweights of the 1890s and 1900s. Amongst the top names that he faced were, Peter Jackson, Gus Lambert, Jack Fallon, Joe Godfrey, Bob Fitzsimmons, Joe Goddard, Denver Ed Smith, George Godfrey, Frank Craig, Joe Butler, Gus Ruhlin, Frank Slavin, Joe Choynski, Tom Sharkey, Ed Dunkhorst, Joe Kennedy, Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, Kid Carter, George Gardner, Morris Harris, Jeff Clarke, Marvin Hart, and Kid McCoy.

Bob Fitzsimmons Vs. Peter Maher
In this book, Donnellon has brought back to life a fighter who was one of the most popular and famous of his time, yet, has almost been forgotten by most non-Irish boxing fans today. Maher’s life reads very much like a Hollywood film, with Maher going from being an unknown, to achieving fame and wealth, with a certain amount of notoriety included. Donnellon has done a great job in researching his subject, and goes into depth concerning both the strengths and flaws of Maher’s character. 

Most of Maher’s fights are retold in round by round detail, and his biggest fights include excellent details about the fight’s build up and aftermath. We are also given good character sketches of Maher’s opponents. In the back pages of this book, we are also given the full fighting records of both Peter and all of his opponents.

Peter Maher Vs. Tom Sharkey
Peter comes across as a loveable rogue, who loved to fight, but didn’t enjoy confining himself to the rigors and deprivations of training. Donnellon draws a fascinating picture, not only of Maher and his life and career, but also the characters and lives of his opponents and other fighters of his time. 

Maher seems to have been one of those people who had a knack of finding himself in peculiar, and sometimes hazardous, situations, and it often seems that Maher was at his safest within a boxing ring. 

During his hey day, Maher encountered some of the most famous and influential people of his time, such as Teddy Roosevelt, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Judge Roy Bean, and John L Sullivan, amongst many others.

Having got acquainted with Peter’s character, the reader will probably not be overly surprised to find out that after all of his high-grossing fights and fame, Peter ended up penniless in later life, and was forced to take a series of mundane jobs in order to survive. Yet, Maher never seems to have lamented his dwindling fortunes, or regretted anything about his fighting career. For all of his flaws, both as a man and as a fighter, you finish this book with a new found respect and admiration of Maher, both as a fighter and a man.

Peter Maher and Mickey Walker
If there is one quibble that I have concerning this book it is the presence of a number of spelling mistakes or typos throughout the book. However, they do not take away from the underlining merit of the book. This book is a must for anyone who considers themselves a student of boxing’s rich history, and it is a great opportunity to become reacquainted with one of Ireland’s greatest sons.

Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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