The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire

Remembering Harry Mullan
By Francis Fee

May 20, 2000

Harry Mullan is unknown to many people, but I am extremely priviliged to have known him. I knew Harry through my father who was Harry's best friend. My father talked of Harry as a great man, in every sense. They met at St. Patricks Boys' Grammar School, Armagh, Northern Ireland. My father told me many things about Harry, but one sticks out in my mind. This nonfiction tale is told in Harry's pen portrait which he wrote for the programme of the Boxing weekend (8th - 9th May 1998 in Armagh Grammar School). He wrote of how he got interested in the boxing business:

"Getting me started in the boxing business might have been on the charge sheet for my father. When I was seven or eight, an amateur show was staged in the old Palais de Danse at the end of the Promenade in my home town of Portstewart, Co Derry, Northern Ireland. The tournament was announced, but I despaired because of the ticket prices. They were far beyond my budget of a weekly allowance of a shilling (5 pence). But my father, knowing how keen I was, treated me to a ringside seat."

At that, Harry was hooked. His journey that began in the Palais, took him to rather grander venues such as Madison Square Garden, the New Orleans Superdome and the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Harry's great writings are to be thanked for by a 'legend', according to my father. Gerry Hicks was teaching Harry English at his Grammar School and gave Harry a private lesson. Although this lesson was extremely short and consisted of four words alone, they said a lot. "Damn said the Duchess." You are probably thinking "What does that guy mean?" but if you are puzzled, you're meant to be. These were the words of inspiration Harry was given, to tell him to come up with a witty beginning for an article, to grab the audience's attention.

Thus, Harry's writing is explained.

In London, as a young fan of Boxing News, Harry haunted the street offices in the hour-long lunch break he had from his civil service job. He read through endless magazines and issues until the proprietor there, Vivian Brodsky ordered him to leave saying, "Young man, this is not a public reading room. Get Out!". Little did Mr. Brodsky know that Harry would return to that self-same office to join the staff and later on go on to become the second longest seving editor in the paper's 88-year history. Harry Mullan watched his first world title fight with Frank in 1965 when Howard Winstone, their favourite fighter, lost an epic world featherweight title challenge to Vicente Saldivar in London.

Harry became involved with the Boxing News in 1974, and then became editor in 1977. He told us in his pen portrait, "Its strange how far a boyhood interest can take you".

He left Boxing News in October 1996 since he had been a full-time freelance jounalist, mainly with the Independent on Sunday and Total Sport.

Harry has written many wonderful and inspiring books for boxing fans. Some of these books include, Boxing, the Last 25 years, The Illustrated History of Boxing, The Book of Boxing Quotations, Fighting Words, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Boxing and Heroes and Hard Men. Harry also co/wrote McGuigan, the untold story.

Harry wrote The Book of Boxing Quotations to prove that the majority of boxers are not monosyllabic buffoons as thought Sylvester Mittee, 'The Sage of Bethnal Green'. Evidence of the 'Damn said the Duchess' lesson is shown in his witty chapter headings such as 'Corn on the Cobb' and 'Just Puff your Chest'.

Harry also wrote The World Encyclopedia of Boxing. To the great sadness of his wife and family, Harry died during this publication, but at Harry's request, the updating work was carried out by friend and fellow boxing writer, Bob Mee. Harry wrote this encyclopedia as the up-to-date volume, following the late friend and mentor of Harrys, Gilbert Odd, who wrote his encyclopedia of boxing in 1983.

Harry changed many people's views on boxing, one of those people being myself. I was lucky enough to have met Harry when he visited our family home in Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He was a warm, affectionate person whose modesty disguised his many talents as a writer and broadcaster. It was a privilege for me to have known him.

Francis Fee
Dungannon, Northern Ireland.

[Editor's Note: I had the pleasure of meeting Harry Mullan just once, at the Boxing Hall of Fame. Mr. Mullan impressed me as a humble, good man. I regret now that I did not tell him how much his work had influeced my own decision to become a boxing historian at a serious level. His book The Great Book of Boxing (ISBN 0-517-62953-4) is a wonderful overview of boxing, with hundreds of rare photos from Mullan's colection. Every serious boxing library should have this book. Mike DeLisa, CBZ]


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