Pensioner Stephen (88) still up to boxing clever

By Maurice Garvey

A PENSIONER and former boxer is still hitting the mark, after a video of him going to work on a punching bag went viral.

The 15-second clip of Stephen Maher (88) delivering a fast and furious combo, was taken by his grand-daughter Ciara Maher last Christmas.

Stephen Maher compressor

Stephen Maher

Ciara posted the video to Twitter on Sunday, and it blew up online, managing over 420,000 views by Wednesday evening.

A number of famous boxers retweeted the clip, including Lennox Lewis, who said ‘Hope I look that good at his age’ and Frank Bruno who praised Maher Snr as ‘a champ’.

Stephen Maher is a former Ballyfermot resident, who was instrumental in setting up the local St Matthew’s Boxing Club in 1979.

Speaking to The Echo this week, Mr Maher admitted to being “a bit embarrassed” by all the attention the clip received.

“I can’t believe it, I’m not able for all the attention. But it showed there may still be a touch of genius there,” he chuckled.

An energetic character, Maher says he “does a bit of exercise every day”, and swims three times a week at Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim, Co Meath, where he moved with his wife Carmel 13 years ago.

“After I was going there for 10 years, I went to renew my subscription, and they said I was such an inspiration, that they eventually gave me free membership for life,” said the former light welterweight.

“I boxed from age 13/14 up to the age of 23, and made semi-finals in national championships two years in a row, but decided I’d reached my level. I was very small for my weight. I’d be 5ft 6 inches, often against a 6ft lad. I had to jump up to hit them!”

Tributes have poured in from far and wide for Mr Maher’s vitality – including from his daughter Carmel McKiernan.

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“He is such an inspirational man,” said Carmel.

“He certainly didn’t expect over 400,000 views, which is amazing. At the time he started the club, it was a very deprived area, nothing for kids to do. A lot of them have gone on to do good in life.”

Carmel said her father, a former tailor by profession, met her mother (Carmel Snr), while working in Burtons, and they moved to Trim after Carmel Snr contracted Parkinsons.

Stephen struggled for 20 years to set up the club in Ballyfermot, with up to 40 boys training at the toilets in Mary Queen of Angels.

Eventually, the club committee got a piece of land from the local parish, and the late Independent councillor Linda Kavanagh, helped secure capital funding of €315,000 to set up the club.

According to Stephen, some of the “great scrappers” he saw in his time were Ollie Byrne, Paddy Kiely, Davy Carroll, while Clondalkin’s Bernard Dunne also trained in St Matthew’s on occasion.

“Today I don’t think boxing is the strongest in Ireland – it doesn’t get enough publicity,” said Stephen.

“It is the poor man’s sport. I was born in the 1930s and joined a club for the heat. The atmosphere was great though, even if there was a bit of punishment.”

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