Mick Dowling: One of the greats.

If you passed Mick Dowling on the street, you would see a fairly small, 74-year-old man. Yes, he looks fit for his age, but you would never guess that he was a man who had competed in the Olympic games twice, as an Olympic boxer fighting for Ireland.

Mick is a white haired, 5-foot 4 inches and with a crooked nose. His face is aged with lines that tell stories, yet at the same time his face is kind looking and soft.

One of the highlights of training in Mick’s boxing club was his daily tradition of serenading us all with his rendition of Elvis Presley’s song “Return to Sender.” Mick would shuffle around the club singing the lyrics with heart and his slightly slurred speech would echo throughout the walls of the KCR gym.

“Boxers who have had a lot of contact to the head can develop this way of speaking called ‘boxers’ slur’,” he says. “Your speech becomes slurred, and you find it harder to make out the words in your mouth. Just speaking to lads in my club I could easily tell their fighting experience from the way they speak.”

Mick Dowling was born December 17th, 1946, in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny. He boxed over 50 times for Ireland including the 1968 and 1972 Olympic games held in Mexico City and Munich. Dowling boxed in the Bantamweight category meaning that the boxer must weigh in between 51 to 53.5 kilograms in order to compete as a bantamweight boxer.

In 1969, he won his first European bronze medal. He won another in 1971, a year before the Olympic games. In 1972, the Olympic games were held in Munich. Mick Dowling was fighting in the quarter final for a bronze medal against the Cuban boxer, Orlando Martínez, but he sadly lost the fight due to a split decision made by the judges. Orlando Martínez later went on to win the gold.

Mick holds the record and continues to be the only boxer who holds 8 consecutive National Elite titles in the same weight class.

Since retirement Dowling has been coaching, running his own sports goods shop, and working as one of the most respected RTÉ boxing commentators. He coaches at Mount Tallant boxing club and also trains the boxing team at the TUD Tallaght campus.

“I was always a sporty child, I was mad into the hurling, the athletics and of course, my main love boxing. I was lucky to make the Kilkenny hurling team when I was a young man. I also stole a few championship medals for the athletics – I have always been short and scrawny, so those speedy and agile sports always came naturally to me.

“Neither of my parents were into boxing, even though my dad was mad into the Gaelic games, he never was into the boxing. I think a lot of my passion for boxing came from my older brother, Joe, who was ten years my senior. He moved to England, and even won pro fights but then decided to take on the responsibility as a coach instead.

“Joe coached me for a few years, he was a brilliant coach and we’d batter each other around the ring, he’d like to think he won a some of the sparring matches between me and him, but I know I would’ve taken the belt on this one. I remember even being a young teenager me and Joe would have bouts in the sitting room and mam and dad would be shouting at us to knock it off.”

Dowling’s boxing career started when he was just 8-years old in Castlecomer, Kilkenny, in his local boxing club, this is where he won his first boxing title, “I had the good fortune to win the Kilkenny boxing title in 1955 when I was only nine years of age, just imagine this scrawny, four stone, short lad walking into the ring, boxing against lads twice my height – the odds were nearly always against me but sure I pulled through.”

In 1965, Mick moved to Dublin where he worked in the Gresham hotel as a waiter.

“I loved working in the Gresham, I had the opportunity of meeting plenty of famous movie stars and athletes who would have stayed in the hotel when I was working there. One day, one of the lads that I worked with came up to me and asked if I ever boxed before, he then invited me to his boxing club to meet some of the trainers and go a few rounds in the ring. ‘

On the 10th of March 1965, I went to Arbour Hill boxing club, I remember knocking on the door and this big burley man from Kilkenny who was mad into the hurling as well welcomed me in, he was thrilled to have this little Kilkenny hurling lad in his club.”

In 1966 Mick went on to win the national junior boxing championship, and only a year after Dowling went on to win the 1967 senior boxing championship. “There is no way to describe the feeling of getting into the ring, boxing your heart out and ending up with you glove being held high in the air by the referee at the end. I definitely won’t ever forget winning my first ever match back home in Castlecomer, it just gave me that drive and when you have that drive it turns into a nearly like addiction type of thing, you just want to do it over and over again.”

To this day Mick Dowling still remains an avid Elvis Presley fan, shouting “the king has arrived” when entering the boxing club. Mick’s love of boxing is still being passed onto his younger boxers and continues to inspire all the coaches and boxers in the club daily.

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