Dave 'Boy' McAuley

Former boxer and world flyweight champion

It may be 13 years since Dave ‘Boy’ McAuley last had a pair of gloves laced up in anger, but the former boxer who was involved in nine world title fights is still constantly reminded of his stirring deeds.

‘At least two or three times a week, people approach me and tell me that they remember my world title fights,’ says the Larne based chef, who went on to made a record five title defences. ‘It’s gratifying in a way because it makes me feel that I have contributed something to the sporting history of Northern Ireland.’

Dave ‘Boy’ is certainly correct in that assessment. On April 25, 1987, the 25 year old flyweight fought what he describes as both the most ‘memorable’ and ‘brutal’ fight of his career.

‘It was my first world title contest against the WBA champion Fidel Bassa and it was fought over 15 rounds. I was beaten and it took me six months to recover.’ He may have lost, but everyone in the capacity crowd at the King’s Hall Belfast rose to applaud the bravery of McAuley.

The Colombian was on the canvas twice and if McAuley could have floored him again, the title belt would have transferred ownership. However, in the thirteenth round with the Irishman leading on points, the champion managed to get in a vital knockdown punch to keep his crown.

‘The irony is that my fight against Bassa was the last to go 15 rounds. The WBA changed contests to 12 rounds after this. But at least it did make history. It was voted seventy-fifth best fight of all time, fight of the year in Britain and the third best fight of the 1980s.’

McAuley, who had become British flyweight champion in 1986 when he scored a ninth round knockout over Scotland’s Joe Kelly, had to be patient in his quest to become world champion.

The eagerly awaited rematch with Bassa in 1987 went the entire 12 rounds, but the Colombian was too good again. However, in June 1989 another chance came his way and he dethroned the IBF champion Duke McKenzie on points in London.

Back on home territory, Dave ‘Boy’ successfully defended his precious title five times. The most difficult of these was against South American Rodolfo Blanco who had McAuley down four times.

‘In the intensity and concentration of a fight I would shut out the sound of the crowd. On occasions though the noise at the King’s Hall would get through and if things weren’t going well it would lift my spirits and morale.’

Dave McAuley’s main regret was to agree to a rematch with Blanco in Spain in 1992.

‘I should never have gone to Bilbao. I was three or four rounds ahead and lost that fight. It was a very controversial decision. He even got a public warning and the margin should have been wider.

‘Part of being a professional sportsman is to be able to accept legitimate defeat, to know when you are beaten fair and square. But that wasn’t fair and it still rankles with me.’

It is too late now, but McAuley knows in his heart that if he had moved up to a heavier weight he could probably have gone on to further success. Now as an older and wiser man, he has plenty of good memories to look back on.

‘I wanted to make history as the most successful boxer in Britain, but it wasn’t to be. When people talk about those days in the ring or ask me for my autograph, I genuinely feel that I’ve earned respect for what I’ve done and that is very special.’

By Padraig Coyle