Boxing legend Martin McGarry remembered for putting youth 'on the right course'
Former Cook County Sheriff Mike Sheahan will always cherish his friendship with Martin McGarry, but he’s even more grateful for the impact his friend of five decades had on his five boys.
“He was into boxing and I had five boys, four of them that were into wrestling and some boxing,” Sheahan told the South Cook News. “I remember when he would volunteer for the old Fight Nights at Mt. Carmel High. My boys got a lot from their experiences with him, like self-discipline. They learned how to win and lose and how to always be gracious.”
McGarry, a Chicago boxing legend who built McGarry’s Boxing Club, replete with a USA Boxing certified gym in the garage of his home in Chicago's Beverly community on the South Side, died Jan. 24 of familial amyloidosis. He was 66.
“We were friends since the early 1970s,” Sheahan said. “He worked as a pipefitter and was just a regular guy. He was always supportive of his community and loved helping put young men on the right course.”
Sheahan said he will always remember the days their Beverly neighborhood was regularly flooded by youngsters looking to get into McGarry’s gym for guidance as much as a workout.
“He had the big bags hanging there, the big ring in the middle of the floor and the chin-up bars he had built with his hands,” he said. "Afterwards, he would talk, talk, talk with the kids."
McGarry was born in Ireland and grew up near the seaport town of Belamullet. He migrated to Chicago when he was still a teenager and soon after arriving was competing for Golden Gloves and Catholic League Organizations titles.
He went on to train Olympic fighters like Montell Griffin, but one of his biggest claims to fame was when he met and shadow boxed with Muhammad Ali.
“He knew him,” Sheahan said. “He was proud of that association.”
The same can be said of all the young lives McGarry went on to touch, including all of Sheahan’s sons, two of whom went on to wrestle at the University of Illinois.
“Martin was loved and respected by everyone,” Sheahan said. “He was scheduled to be saluted with his family at next month’s South Side Irish Parade. Everybody respected what Martin did to help everyone else.”
McGarry is survived by his wife, Kathleen, daughters Theresa (Jim), Molly (Michael) and Nora (Jim) and son Morgan (Meghan).