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Filippo Fusco of Fusco’s chipper: ‘If I have to fight, I fight’

The Liberty sat down with Filippo Fusco, owner of Fusco’s famous fish and chip shop on Meath Street, to hear about his life as a champion kickboxer and successful business owner in the Liberties.  

At 84 years old, Filippo Fusco is a retired  kickboxer – but he still has a lot of fight in him. 

This strength was tested a few years ago when he fought six men as they attempted to rob his shop. 

“We started to fight at 12.05 and we stopped at twenty past one. Six against one, we fought for 1 hour and twenty minutes. I fight for my life.” After that, he says, he “swore on God that I would not give up my sport – it saved my life”.

It all started when the young woman that he was working with went out to tell six men that the shop had closed for the night. Soon a broken glass was held to her throat as she was grabbed from behind.  

“I jumped and kicked the guy no problem. Two guys jumped inside the counter with me and attacked me. When they attacked me I started to fight.  

Filippo Fusco(Middle) in his referee days (Photo from Mr. Fusco)

“My neighbour came to help me and I didn’t know if he was with them or with me so I hit him in the head. He said it’s me Fusco! I’m here to help! 

“They broke the window and I got lucky because it didn’t cut me.”

It was a bloody scene, Fusco says, but “it wasn’t my blood”. Eventually around 10 to 15 gardaí arrived.  

“I only had one bruise on my cheek and one bruise on my shin. People from all over Ireland heard about the big fight on Meath Street. People thought they would find me dead, but I was fine.”  

Fusco represented Ireland in full contact in the World Association Kickboxing Organisation (WAKO). He is still a member of WAKO. He obtained his referee qualification and became an international referee. Fusco only retired five or six years ago when he lost his left eye. “I wanted to retire as a champion,” he says. 

Filippo Fusco (Top Middle) during his coaching days (Photo from Mr. Fusco)

“I still feel that I want to reopen because that sport is in my heart.”

FILIPPO FUSCO ON HIS KICKBOXING CLUB

He started out in kickboxing only after he already had a black belt in judo. He learnt to kickbox in a club in Phibsboro He went on to establish a kickboxing federation called Istallan-do-mugendo and taught classes from the second floor of his shop.  

“I never say to anybody that I was a blackbelt because in those days people would be watching those cowboy films and could come in and test me.” 

His kickboxing club was known across Ireland. Although it has been closed now for some time, people are still calling him for lessons.  

Filippo Fusco enjoys a nice meal (Photo courtesy of Donal Corrigan)

“Even today I got a phone call from some woman saying she wanted to join my club.” 

Fusco retired from kickboxing two years ago, after an operation to replace his knee. He couldn’t do the box kick or the splits anymore. Then he fell off the roof and broke his spine. “I am very lucky that I am not in a wheelchair. 

“I still feel that I want to reopen because that sport is in my heart.”

As for his famous chipper, the young Fusco had a wandering path from his birthplace in Italy and spells in Paris – where he trained as a plumber. At 18 he married his Italian high-school girlfriend before returning to Paris with his wife for another seven and a half years. They had two kids before eventually moving to Ireland and starting Fusco’s fish shop on Meath Street.  

Fusco’s chipper opened in April 1963 and Fusco says: “The first day I opened, I had a queue up the street and around the corner.” 

He recalls that at that time there was nothing for young people in Ireland so he decided to install a jukebox. There are 120 chairs in Fusco’s shop and from the start he employed young boys and girls from the area.

“The reason I employed them is because they bring all their family,” he smiles. 

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