Boxing in Dunboyne

{becssg_c}0|01-tiffany.jpg|Dunboyne Boxing Club was founded in 1990 by Eamonn Gilligan, a former prison guard and Kevin Poleon, a former builder. The club attracts those with high hopes of turning pro and those who just want an exercise regimen.|{/becssg_c}{becssg_c}0|02-tiffany.jpg|Ian McLoughlin (right) works in Dublin as a butcher in the daytime and trains in the evenings to stay fit.|{/becssg_c}{becssg_c}0|03-tiffany.jpg|Dunboyne Boxing Club.|{/becssg_c}{becssg_c}0|04-tiffany.jpg|Foad Baghban, originally from Iran, has been living in Ireland since 1991. A network engineer, Baghban comes to Dunboyne for both personal training and to train young boxers.|{/becssg_c}{becssg_c}0|06-tiffany.jpg|The boxing club has been situated in different locations over its 22-year history. It has been at its current residence, a former food market, for five years.|{/becssg_c} {becssg_c}0|07-tiffany.jpg|Eamonn Gilligan, the founder of Dunboyne Boxing Club, spars with Ciaran Noonan, a law student at Trinity College Dublin.|{/becssg_c}{becssg_c}0|08-tiffany.jpg|Trainer Kevin Poleon has been with the club since its very beginnings.|{/becssg_c}{becssg_c}0|09-tiffany.jpg|Bobby Kingsley, originally from Nigeria, spars with a fellow boxing club member.|{/becssg_c}{becssg_c}0|10-tiffany.jpg|Leinster Intermediate Tournament at National Stadium, Dublin. Christian Scuvie (left) defeats John Broughton.|{/becssg_c}

Before the sights and sounds of the room reach the senses, it is the smell of leather and sweat that greets you, like an overzealous stage performer grabbing you by the wrists and leading you backstage. Once the other senses kick in, an array of equipment enters your view that includes punching bags; weights; red and blue boxing gloves piled haphazardly on top of each other; you can hear the sounds of roughly forty men jumping up and down, clapping their hands together in unison - save for one or two who are slightly out of step. These men, ranging in age from late teens to early thirties, are warming up before putting on boxing gloves and head gear in preparation for training at Dunboyne Boxing Club in Co Meath. Members hail from different parts of the world and different economic backgrounds, yet share the space of this modest amateur boxing club and call Ireland their home.

It was a cold November evening last year when I first stepped behind the scenes at Dunboyne. The club attracts a diverse range of members that include the tall, boyish Trinity College law student, Ciarán Noonan, the quick-with-a-smile, short and stocky Liam McLoughlin - who works as a butcher in Dublin - as well as those who were born outside of Ireland, such as the slightly imperious Christian Scuvie, born in Nigeria, and the quick and light-on-his feet network engineer, Foad Baghban, originally from Iran. They come here each week to get in shape, to train and to compete.

“It’s good for building confidence,” Noonan explains, adding, “It’s a liberating feeling when you’re competing.” Baghban, who also acts as a trainer with children at the club, has lived in Ireland since 1991 and sees the club’s diversity as a reflection of Ireland’s growing migrant population over the last two decades. “It’s just normal having so many people here from different backgrounds,” he says.

Dunboyne Boxing Club was started in 1990 by Eamonn Gilligan, a former prison guard at Arbour Hill who was nicknamed ‘Rocky’ by prison inmates because of his reputation as a boxer in his younger years. He was joined by fellow trainer Kevin Poleon, a former builder who has been involved with the club since its beginnings. Gilligan emphasis the importance of the club: “We’re more about a community than turning out champions,” he says. That ‘community’, Gilligan goes on to note, does not privilege one member over another. “Whether a guy is from the Congo or Clonmel, it doesn’t really matter, he has the same rules to obey,” he says, adding, “Everybody is treated the same.”


Since the rise (and fall) of the Celtic Tiger, Ireland has experienced a seismic shift in migration and a reworking of what it means to be 'Irish'. Over the last two decades many migrants have come to work and live in Ireland, thus altering this once largely ethnically homogenous country. With this influx have come ethnic tensions, and numerous reports and statistics evidencing racist attitudes. According to a 2006 study by the ESRI, “25 per cent of blacks living in Ireland said they had been racially abused or threatened within the last 12 months.” In 2009, The Equality Authority published a report that found job applicants with an Irish name were twice as likely as applicants with non-Irish names to get called for an interview, even though qualifications between the two groups were exactly the same. And just two years ago, the killing of 15-year-old Toyosi Shitta-bey in Tyrrelstown drew national attention to violence inflicted against migrant communities. Yet, these examples do not ultimately trump all social progress, as there are spaces and people, such as within the setting of amateur boxing, that challenge ideas about race and migration.


Stepping out from behind the scenes of the boxing club last year, contenders entered the stage at the National Stadium in Dublin for the Leinster Tournament. This setting, however theatre-like in its display, is real, and blood if drawn is not synthetic, but the evidence of the splitting of skin or breaking of nose. Contenders are matched in terms of weight class; a mirror image of one’s opponent in strength and mass. In the space of the ring, punches and blows are endured; pain is quid pro quo.

As members of Dunboyne Boxing Club take to the ring to compete, trainers Gilligan and Poleon stand alongside them offering encouragement and guidance. One of Dunboyne’s strongest contenders is Christian Scuvie, the boxer born in Nigeria, who takes his place against opponent John Broughton. Punches are both distributed and endured, and the two fighters dance around the ring avoiding blows, engaged in the ritualisms of the fight, a rough and shifting reflection of the other. Though the two contenders were born on different continents, at this moment in time, they inhabit and participate in the ring on equal footing, as the emphasis is placed on their skills and strength rather than the colour of their skin or national origin.

After three rounds, time is called and the fight ends. Scuvie and Broughton rest their fists at their sides as the referee announces the results: Scuvie is declared the winner and both fighters leave the ring as the next two contenders enter and take their place.