Dundee boxing stalwart Joe Duffy has hung up his gloves for the final time after 50 years in the sport.
Although long-retired from bouts, Joe, who has been a member of St Francis Boxing Club for years, bowed out as club secretary earlier this month.
His stint with St Francis came after helping run other clubs across the city.
Starting out in the ring himself aged 11, Joe has also been a coach, international judge and a referee in his half-century association with the sport.
His involvement in the sport have led to meetings with personalities including former two-time World Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson.
Joe has also stood down as the president of the Northern District Boxing Committee and as their representative to Boxing Scotland Limited.
Joe is also well-known in Carnoustie, having run the Stag’s Head Inn for 10 years, after stints working in the building trade and as a telecoms engineer with BT.
“I started boxing myself when I was 11 years old, but I didn’t box senior, just as a junior,” said Joe, 73.
“At that time there were hundreds of lads doing it, there was nothing much else but boxing to do in those days. There were umpteen clubs in Dundee at that time.
“It was Dundee Central Club I boxed with, in Tay Street Lane. I stopped boxing at about 13 years old.
“I started coaching at Lochee Boys Club when I joined BT, they had a man called Jim Scott, who was running the club at that time. He was a telephone engineer the same as myself. I would have been about 23 at that time.
“I had great times with Lochee Boys. I learned a lot from Jim Scott. He was a great mentor to me.
“At that time I was one of the younger coaches, and I was able to go in the ring and spar and do the coaching pads with the lads. The older coaches couldn’t, they were getting too old for it.”
Joe said that over the years he has travelled to Milan, Romania and Amsterdam with his fighters, and even had a planned trip to South Africa, although it was cancelled due to apartheid in the county at the time.
“In my time at Lochee there were some great lads who came through the club,” said Joe, a father of two.
“We had the Buchanan brothers, Billy and Albert. They both turned professional after successful amateur careers. They were Scottish internationalists, and Billy fought for the Scottish lightweight title.
“I actually had Billy later on in his professional career when I (was involved with) professional boxers.
“The highlight, I would say, of my spell at Lochee Boys, was seeing Billy fighting for the ABA title, down at Wembley.
“That was against Mohammed Hanif. That’s the British amateur title; we call it the GB title now. That would have been in 1980, Billy got beat in the final.
“That was a great achievement for a lad from Dundee. And his brother Albert got beaten in the final stages of the Scottish Championships as well. In those days you had to be a Scottish champion to go through to the final stages of the British eliminators.”
Birkhead Boxing Club
Some of Joe’s fondest memories were when he ran his own club outside Dundee.
“I started my own club in Birkhill, the Birkhead Club, and that was in 1980,” he said.
“It was based in the church hall at Muirhead. I had a lot of success there. Out of that place, I had two Scottish champions; Stevie McIntyre and Grant Scott, they were both lads from Birkhill.
“Quite a few of the lads joined me there from Lochee Boys and other clubs.
“When I started there, the church minister at that time asked me if I could start a boxing club in the area, because they needed something for the local laddies to do.
“So I started the Birkhead Amateur Boxing Club, in the wee hall that he gave us free of charge.
“Then it got that big because we had lads coming from Dundee. So we got a chance to move the club to Dundee, to the Lochee United Social Club, which belonged to Lochee United FC.
“They had just built a new gym, and gave us a slot in the gym for training.
“When we moved there the club really took off, we had laddies from all over the place, all over Dundee. It was a really big club.”
Joe was then approached by local boxing personality Frank Hendry, and asked to merge his club with the St Francis Club.
Joe said: “I started having success with lads boxing for Scotland at that time. Then I moved to St Francis with all the lads and we had great success. I became a national coach, I had umpteen lads who won the Scottish Amateur title.
“Frank Hendry was high up in boxing circles, he was on the World Boxing Council, and was Olympic Boxing president.
“We had great times at St Francis, international fights, we had America vs Scotland, all these different things in Dundee at the Caird Hall and Angus Hotel.”
Joe eventually went on to coach some fighters who had decided to give professional bouts a go.
He explained: “It comes to a laddie’s time in his amateur career when he has to decide if he’ll keep boxing amateur or if he’ll have a crack at the professional side of it.
“In those days there were only a couple of prominent promoters and managers for professional boxers in Scotland; Tommy Gilmour and Alex Morrison.
“Billy Buchanan had turned professional with Tommy Gilmour. That meant he was training in Glasgow, and he actually came to us and trained when he had a fight coming up.
“We get that from time to time with professional boxers, even up to this day. So he was training with us and I was taking him on the pads, things like that.
“He went and fought in Glasgow for the Scottish Lightweight title, and was stopped.
“After that he was sickened with boxing and was out of it for about nine months.
“He came back, he was grossly overweight and asked if I could get his back ready to box again – that was how he earned his living.
“So I took him back on board at St Francis, he started training, and went with the promoter Alex Morrison, and I took out a professional coach’s licence, so I could be his cornerman.
“He stepped up a weight because he was more comfortable at Light Welterweight. His first fight back was in Italy and we went across for it, to Milan, to fight a guy called Maurizio Ronzoni.
“Billy stopped him, and unknown to us, the guy was ranked sixth in the world at the time, so his career really took off again as a professional.
“The trip alone was an eye-opener for me though. It was just me and Billy in Milan and the guy he was fighting thought it was just a warm-up for him to get a crack at the world title, but Billy stopped him.
“There was only me and Billy there, so they got someone to give me a hand in the corner, and the guy who helped me was Frank Maloney, now known as Kellie Maloney.
“Before the fight there was only me, Billy and Frank, and we heard all the racket from the Italians. All the TV cameras were there in the Italian lad’s dressing room.
“After Billy stopped him all the cameras came back to our dressing room, it was funny, they just ditched him after he lost. That was the night of the Lockerbie disaster, so whenever I see anything about it like the anniversary it brings me back to that.
“That is definitely a highlight of my career. We saw a few places in Europe; it was good seeing a bit of the world.
“We had a fight booked for Billy to fight in South Africa, but unfortunately it never went ahead because of apartheid there.
“When I was still at Lochee Boys I took Billy and another fighter down to London for the ABA finals at Wembley Arena, which was the highlight of the British amateur boxing calendar.
“I used to take the lads down there, just to give them the experience of going, and then two years later Billy was fighting in the final.”
Joe said the step-up to professional fighting from the amateur ranks was tough.
Hands like concrete
“In professional fights they use smaller gloves and the bandages they use to wrap up their hands, they’re like concrete. In a professional fight, after it, you’re looking at two weeks to recover.
“I went back to St Francis after that and we had more great fighters, we had Andy Caulfield and I did his corner.
“He went on to fight for Scottish titles, became a Scottish internationalist, then he took up refereeing and judging.
“He’s one of the few men who have boxed and refereed a final at the Commonwealth Games, and he’s refereed the finals of the Olympic Games.
“For him to be a laddie I coached years ago, I was really chuffed for him.
“Before I went back to St Francis we also put on the first professional show in Dundee in 30 years, which was fantastic, at the Stakis De Stihl’s disco in Dundee.
“There were Dundee boys on the card, the atmosphere was incredible.
“Since then we have had umpteen Scottish amateur champions at St Francis.
“Charlie Doig is with the club and he’s in the Scottish squad for the Commonwealth Games next year. Four years ago he was in the squad to go to the Gold Coast but didn’t make the cut.
“He’s 22 now and we’ve put 10 years of work into him and he’s the finished article now.”
Joe also paid tribute to the coaches and volunteers who have helped throughout his time in boxing.
He said: “The guys I’ve worked with at St Francis over the years, I can’t say enough about them, we’ve built up a great team.
“I’ve got good lads who are taking over from me. Norrie McVicar is there to take over and he’s a good boxing man who goes years back into the sport.
“Alex Wolecki is there, he boxed for St Francis and was a Scottish international, he’s had over 300 fights, he’s a coach.
“So it’s a great stable of boys looking after the club.
“I just don’t have the energy for it now, especially after my heart attack. You have to have a wife who is going to put up with all that as well; your whole life revolves around boxing.
“It could be seven days a week. You could have a show on a Friday and a Saturday. I could be refereeing in Ravenscraig in Motherwell for championships and that’s a whole weekend, twice a month for three or four months of the year.
“Then there are all the boxing shows for the lads in your club, they are boxing all over Scotland.
“It really is a full-time commitment and I just don’t have the energy anymore, after my heart attack two years ago.
“I’ve always thought that if you’re doing something you should give it 100%, especially as you’re expecting 100% back from the laddies.
“It was only two years ago I was refereeing on the BBC, at the GB finals in Sheffield. I did that four times in the last four or five years.
“I’ve been away to Romania to do the European championships. It was just becoming too much.
“I’ve told everyone at St Francis that I’ll be here, in an advisory capacity if they need me.
“I would be up there at 5pm to open up and there till the back of 8pm, and that was Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday for sparring.
“Friday, Saturday and Sunday you could be away to Lochaber, Glasgow, Edinburgh or elsewhere for boys boxing, so it’s a huge commitment.
“It’s a good, clean life being involved with boxing though. Apart from running the Stag’s Head Inn pub in Carnoustie for 10 years, I’ve never been one for standing in the pub or a club drinking.”
Joe now plans to spend more time with wife Jane, his daughter Jane, son Kevin, and his four granddaughters, as well as the youngsters he and Jane have been fostering for more than 20 years.
Former world champion wishes Joe well
Among those wishing Joe well was Welsh boxer Lee Selby, who sent a video message during a training session.
Lee, 34, is the former IBF featherweight champion, and also held the British, Commonwealth and European featherweight titles.
St Francis president Jimmy Marr said: “While this is a sad day for St Francis Boxing Club and a great loss to Scottish boxing, along with all at St Francis, I am personally so proud to have one of Dundee’s finest associated with the club.
“Joe, over the years, has steered many a young boxer to international success and kept many more on the straight and narrow.
“Joe has also helped St Francis grow in performance and to become one of the oldest and best-known boxing clubs in Scotland.
“We wish Joe and his wife Jane all the very best in retirement.”
Charlie Doig, one of the club’s Scottish internationals, currently boxing for his country in Ukraine, said: “Joe Duffy has been a great mentor to my club-mates and I.”