New book on legendary Dundalk boxer Tom Sharkey released

A NEW biography of legendary Dundalk boxer Tom Sharkey, called "I Fought Them All", has been released.

A NEW biography of legendary Dundalk boxer Tom Sharkey, called "I Fought Them All", has been released.

The book, written by Derry-born author Moira Sharkey - a distant relative of Tom - and her husband Greg Lewis, chronicles the life of the man known as "Sailor" who fought for four world heavyweight title in the 1980s.

The book is filled with local colour from Dundalk in the 19th Century and chronicles Tom's early life in Dundalk, his career in the US Navy and his controversial and bloody ring career that has never been told before.

Tom was born in Hill Street in 1873, the son of James Sharkey, a signalman for the Great Northern Railway Company, and Margaret Kelly.

The book tells about his early life spent along the quayside, which eventually led him to New York where he signed on with the US Navy at the age of 19.

It goes onto feature an array of characters including Wild West gunmen Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, and boxing legends such as John L Sullivan, Gentleman Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Also at its heart is the astonishing 50-year rivalry and friendship Sharkey enjoyed with Jim Jeffries, who he fought for the 1899 world title in a 25 rounder - one of the first ever bouts to be filmed. The two died a few weeks apart in 1953.

Co-author Greg Lewis, a producer for ITV in Cardiff, said the inspiration for the book came from his wife Moira.

"She is distantly related to Tom and had read a lot about him over the years but there was no biography on him so we thought it would be interesting to do one.

"It wasn't easy though. It took three years of research and it was difficult to get information on him because there was very little about his private life when he was younger because he had left Ireland very long ago and that meant we had to get a lot of help in America."

Greg says the book features a lot about his early life in Dundalk and his triumphant return to the town in 1897.

"From a Dundalk point of view there's a lot in the book on his early life and the way the town was at the time. He came back to Dundalk in 1897 as quite the celebrity and fought in the Town Hall against a local champion called Joe Craig.

"He also did some exhibition stuff like skipping while a local celebrity called TV Parks played piano."

While tracking down surviving members of Sharkey's family has proven difficult, Greg insisted that he has little doubt there are a number of his descendents living in the area.

"He adopted one of his nephews from Dundalk but there is very little to remember Tom in the town. Byrne's Pub in Hill Street has a mural to him in the back bar with a depiction of Tom drawn into the ceiling.

"The owner of the pub, John Byrne, is a descendent of James Gosling who was friends of the Sharkey family and in the front bar, around the fireplace, John calls it 'Sharkey's Place'.

"It is quite weird how he has been forgotten, particularly in Dundalk. He was the Rocky Marciano or Mike Tyson of his day," said Greg.

The boxing fan's bible The Ring and the New York Times have both called Sharkey a "ring immortal" while his 1899 encounter with Jeffries is consistently listed as one of the greatest nights of boxing of all time.

Now he will be forever remembered in "I Fought Them All" which is available by logging on to tomsharkey.blogspot.com. It can also be ordered from all major bookshops.

l Tom Sharkey on the cover of "I Fought Them All"