2006-10-20 / Columnists

On The Beach

The Boxer: A Tribute To Eddie McLaughlin And John Duddy
Commentary By Beverly Baxter

BEVERLY BAXTER "...When I left my home and my family, I was no more than a boy in the company of strangers in the quiet of a railway station running scared...In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminder of every glove that laid him down or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame...but the fighter still remains."

What makes the story of Eddie McLaughlin and John Duddy so fascinating is that it is very much a Rockaway Irish story, a common tale of emigration and the attainment of the American dream.

McLaughlin, the founder and coach of The Irish Ropes, the Far Rockaway training gym and boxing ring of dreams to many young athletes from various nationalities, first met John Duddy three years ago when Duddy, an amateur boxer, who hails from County Derry, came to hitch his claim to the American dream by way of the sport and the two have worked together ever since.

McLaughlin, who was not content with his own mediocrity as a boxer, realized that his talent lay in recognizing and extracting the talent in others. In Duddy, he saw the brass ring, the golden gloves and the potential that makes for a middle-weight world champion. McLaughlin decided to sell his construction company; and with three hundred thousand dollars of his own money, he found a shell of a space on Burchell Ave where he could focus his training of Duddy and The Irish Ropes.

Duddy moved into McLaughlin's beachfront coop and the two began a rigorous training schedule that entailed hundreds of hours in the gym and running in the sand on the beach. Although the last three years have paid off with Duddy's recent twelve round unanimous win at Madison Square Garden, The Irish Ropes Gym where it all began is gone.

For those who flexed and trained with McLaughlin, who is considered to be a kind of Guru of boxing, and realize their own physical potential as athletes, the loss of their gym is heartbreaking. McLaughlin made pain-staking appeals to our local politicians in an attempt to try and save the gym, but to no avail. They simply weren't interested. The landlord sold the property to a developer and the gym has been dismantled and torn down; however, in its short three years, the Rockaway Irish Ropes was able to produce a middleweight champion. Not bad!

***Congratulations to Danielle McShane, of Danielle's Florist, who will be among the slate of honorees who will be feted on December 9th at the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association's Holiday Party at the Knights of Columbus. The Chamber of Commerce at its gala at Russo's will also honor Danielle on October 23rd.

She will join distinguished honorees, Marvin and Barbara Eisenstadt, who will receive the chamber's Lifetime Community Service Award.

***The RPHRA will host its third informative discussion on the Zoning issue on Thursday November 9 at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club.

***They're going to the chapel and they're going to be married...today! Congratulations to Liz Smith and Kevin Breslin as they take their vows today at St. Rose of Lima Church. Father Peter Gillen will officiate the Nuptials. A reception will follow at New York's Capitale. May you have many years of wedded bliss.

A Bridal Shower was bestowed upon Liz by her family at The Beach Club where over one hundred of Liz's closest friends showered her with their love and best wishes. In lieu of the traditional wishing well, Liz opted to participate in the Pink Envelope Project for Breast Cancer Research, raising thousands of dollars for the cause. Bravo, Liz!

***Many retailers are commemorating Breast Cancer Awareness Month by donating a percentage of sales toward research and a cure. Sak's Fifth Avenue, Oscar De La Renta, Mercedes Benz and Bacarat are just some of the Designers and Retailers participating. Shop for the Cure!

***If you are a connoisseur of vintage Rockaway, there is a fabulous collection of Poster Art depicting original turn-of-the-century postcards of Rockaway on display and for sale at One Stop Photo.

***More than two hundred people stepped out to join Joe Mure and Michael's Legal Eagles as they walked for a cure for Juvenile Diabetes. The 5k, which was held last Sunday at Flushing Meadow Park, raised twenty thousand dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, of which Mure is Executive Chair. His son, Michael, who suffers from this disease that afflicts millions of children, led the charge and will be the Guest of Honor at a Cocktail Reception at his home on November 18. Contact the Mure's for further details.

***Happy Birthday to you, Owen Baxter! See you ... on the beach.

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