A WELL-KNOWN boxing coach once told his students, ‘boxing is a sport of skill and science’, as he demonstrated the art to a group of Cork youngsters.
It was one lesson the legendary Cork boxer Tommy Hyde never forgot during his career as he went on to achieve fame and he retired with a proud record as in over 200 bouts he was never put on the floor.
Tommy Hyde will always be remembered as one of the most stylish champions to emerge from this country.
Hyde was born and reared on Fair Hill just 50 yards from the boxing club.
It was while attending St Colmcille’s School Blarney Street he fought three bouts in the five and a half stone weight division.
Boxing was thriving in Cork City schools at the time with the Cathedral School, Strawberry Hill and St Patrick’s – all highly competitive academies.
Tommy won five and a half stone Munster Juvenile championships in 1938 before adding a string of more titles as he was crowned the nine stone Munster championship.
The Fair Hill boxing club had folded by the time Tommy had left school, so he decided to join the nearby Sunnyside club where John and Bunny O’Driscoll gave him every opportunity to develop his talent.
Hyde went straight from Juvenile to Senior and which he made his debut against Mick Coughlan.
After a couple of senior fights, he won the Cork County Welterweight before turning his ambition to a Munster title.
After two tough fights each Hyde and Willie O’Mahony from Blackrock met in the final.
O’Mahony was a strong, durable scrapper who could give and take it before eventually getting the verdict over Tommy.
Hyde remembered with pride the reaction of Pakie, the winner’s father after the fight.
Pakie rushed up to Tommy splashed him in the face with a sponge, and said: “Good on ye son, there will be other days.” The thrilling contest led to so many rematches that Hyde met O’Mahony six times in all, and his only defeat in 18 bouts as an amateur was that first one to O’Mahony.
Tommy set off on his own for the National Championships the following year, bearing in his pocket a letter from the club secretary to Billy Chase who had been stationed in Cork.
The ex-army boxer met him off the bus at the National Stadium and acted in his corner.
Twelve welterweights had entered in the division, so the Corkman had to dispose of All-Ireland army champion on the Thursday night.
A win over Tommy Cavanagh of CBS Dublin on Friday before getting to see off the holder Mick Talbot on Saturday.
The final against Belfast based Mick Talbot proved a step too far for Tommy as he narrowly went down in a thrilling decider.
Ironically when the pair met later for the welterweight spot on the Irish team Hyde avenged that defeat.
In his International debut against Scotland he defeated Vic Harrison and from there to 1947 he remained Ireland’s number one.
Former Golden Gloves hero, Paddy Dowdall was among a string of the best boxers defeated by Hyde in his brilliant 1945/46 season in which he won the Irish Welterweight championship title.
The homecoming was another Hyde-O’Mahony contest which once again packed Cork’s City Hall.
To give an idea of the standard of boxing in Cork at that time, Hyde’s sparring partners included some outstanding middleweights as Timmy McNamee, Jerry McCarthy and Seamus Cummins.
Tommy’s International record during 1946 paralleled his domestic record as he defeated American Rosco Hinston as well as accounting for a pair of top Italian fighters.
Tommy had the distinction of having fought at three different weights in the green singlet that included contests against Italy, Belgium, France, Austria, USA, England, Scotland and Wales.
Hyde toured Finland in 1949 winning five of his seven bouts in a packed itinerary.
The irrepressible Hyde decided to hang up his gloves in 1953 in an International against Austria in front of his home fans. In his glittering career, Tommy was renowned for hand speed skill, dazzling footwork and pinpoint accuracy of his punches.
Some of his greatest performances was against one of the men who succeeded him as national welterweight champion, his great rival and close friend Peter Crotty from Dungarvan who boxed out of the Clonmel club and won four national Senior titles.
The Hyde legacy continues in Cork with his grandnephew Gary a former manager of Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux who won two world titles between 2013-2017 before retiring in 2018.
His great-grandnephew Tommy is also promising boxer that ensures the Hyde legacy lives on in Leeside.
A true gentleman in and out of the ring Tommy Hyde deserves his place among the Leeside Legends.