17 January, 2011

SETANTA SPORTS remembers Saturday June 8th 1985: "Clones Cyclone" BARRY McGUIGAN goes to WAR with World Champion Eusobia Pedrosa:

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McGuigan realises there's more enemies than in the other corner

     Midway through the fight, McGuigan needed water and his crew reached for the bottles, discovering there was none.
     In the other corner, Pedrosa was okay for water. It was Saturday June 8th, 1985 in Loftus Road Football Stadium. Pedrosa was defending the WBA World Featherweight Title; McGuigan had come to take it off him.
     "When you're a professional fighter," says the great Panamanian. "Boys are separated from men. You are either a professional or an amateur."
      Jim Sheridan went on to become an Academy Award® Oscar winning film-maker. He was in McGuigan's corner that night, there to witness the event for his book on the titanic Irish fighter.
     Loftus Road was packed to the rafters with 25,000 fans on a hot, humid night. Sheridan went looking for a tap, but the water was leaking out of the bottles when he filled them. "A Pedrosa supporter had come over with razor blades, said 'Hello' and shook hands, slitting the bottom of all the water bottles at the same time." Says Sheridan, pausing before adding: "Now, that's professional."
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     Setanta Sports have commissioned a documentary to celebrate the 25th anniversary of that epic night in London town. "In Sunshine or in Shadow" was premiered at the headquarters of the Irish Film Institute in Dublin over the weekend and Setanta Ireland will show it on March 3rd. 
     Barry McGuigan's victory was one of the landmark victories in Irish sport. The fight went the full 15 rounds. Eusebio Pedrosa had been World Champion for seven years. This was the 20th defence of his Title. He was uncommonly tall for a featherweight, had great skills, reach, power and could also be mean. He never showed pain in the ring. McGuigan inflicted a lot of pain that night. Pedrosa was 32; McGuigan 24; it was youth and hunger that took the Champion down.
It must be said that Pedrosa alleged foul play was in place towards his camp also. He said that
Pedrosa hits the floor but gets up to narrowly lose on points
his dressing room was freezing, saying that the heating had been rigged. While it was summer in London, it was night time and for a man used to tropical temperatures, the dressing room was uncomfortably cold just minutes before the fight. 
     McGuigan's story is familiar to those who were around to witness his dramatic rise and poignant fall. The documentary makers sourced a stream of archive footage and hard-to-get interviews with sparring partners and Pedrosa himself, who is only recognisable by virtue of his trademark moustache.
     McGuigan's manager, Barney Eastwood, knew he had a charismatic fighter on his hands. Between them, they negotiated Northern Ireland's sectarian divide with the sort of balance and dexterity that McGuigan demonstrated inside the ring too. As his reputation in the fight game grew, so did his stature as a unifying symbol in the midst of conflict. The unity theme was of course, also a useful marketing tool.
     Twelve months after winning the World Title, McGuigan lost it in on a traumatic day in Las Vegas. He was never more heroic than in the horrible battle with Steve Cruz in the desert heat. They would fall out bitterly after that fight, but Eastwood had managed his boxer brilliantly en route to the World Title. He paid big money to get Pedrosa to London; and he made sure to wait until the champion was in decline before arranging the match. 
     McGuigan was a thrilling fighter and remains a compelling speaker on the subject of boxing. With self-proclaimed "hands like boulders" - he was born to fight. He punished himself long and hard in his home-made gym and the results could be seen in the roped muscle braided across his back. He had an appetite for the battle and a cold heart when it was needed.
     It only takes one special day to last a lifetime; "Clones Cyclone" Barry McGuigan seized that day on June 8th, 1985. Supposedly 20 million people watched that World Title fight on television. "And I did it," he says peacefully, 25 years later, a serene look on his face.

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