Rocky Ros Muc : A Film Review

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Rocky Ros Muc
Documentary
Director Michael Fanning. Contributors Alphabetically : Seán Bán Breathnach Broadcaster, Kevin Cullen – Boston Globe, Ronan Mac Con Iomaire Author Rocky Ros Muc, Peter Kerr Trainer, Pat Nee, Mike Newell, Sean O’Mainnin, John ‘Red’ Shea, Marty Walsh – Mayor of Boston, Mary Walsh, Mother of Marty, Micky Ward. Production. Below the Radar, Máire Bhreathnach producer,, Trevor Birney executive producer, Michael Fanning executive producer Music by Andrew Simon McAllister, Cinematography by Ronan Fox, Film Editing by Michael Paisley, Visual Effects by Chris Scott visual effects artist, Music Department Jake Jackson score mixer. Ireland. Duration 1hr 32mins. Cert. TBC. Partially subtitled.

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Boxing Documentary

This film is a tale of one mans journey from his home village of Ros Muc in search of his identity and fame which takes him to America and back again. It involves the diaspora identity and the identity of Ireland itself. Even the introduction has nightime shots of Times Square and Madison Square Garden. For contrast the sky drone takes us over Ros Muc. The famished regions and outskirts of larger cities which draw in the young from near and far. The man is Sean Mannion a middle weight champion boxer who rose to be a contender for the World Title Belt in 1984. The journey was a tough one and in between bouts of boxing he often became derailed by that diaspora scourge of drinking heavily. A strong man he could handle it but the mental damage it must have caused would have been a great drawback. Angelo Dundee as C. Clays trainer said if he had Sean at twenty instead of thirty which is when they eventually joined up he would have been a World Title holder many times over.

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The story is told in the most part by a fan whose book is central. Rónán Mac Con Iomaire who is also a Ros Muc man who has written the whole story or as much as lines on a page can deliver, this extraordinary life. It is a capsule though of many people’s diverse lives as immigrants whether Italian, Polish, Irish and the simple truth of the Country they reach never viewing home. The bi-polarity of a mind in two places is hard to deal with. His mother lived a long time and he has brothers and sisters who were distinctly Irish Gaels as Sean himself was. This inculcated identity was of a locality is about 35 miles south west of Galway.

One doesn’t need to be into pugilism or well-versed in Gaelic to appreciate “Rocky Ros Muc,” a documentary that is as much about roots and identity as it is a portrait of Irish American boxer Sean Mannion. Hailing from the village of Ros Muc, some 37 miles south west of Galway, Mannion, like many of his fellow emigrés, formed a tight-knit community on South Boston’s Dorchester Street, where the light middleweight would find eager sparring partners including members of Irish crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang. LA Times reviewer Michael Rechtshaffen delivers a shot on the chin.

Seán Ó Mainnín, Rocky Ros Muc é féin

America Constructed

As Americans and MR will know this perhaps having an migrant background of some sort, the story is as much an American story as an Irish one. Martin Walsh of Ros Muc stock himself, his parents emigrated years ago when they were very young, as Boston’s Mayor ‘Marty’ Walsh, is another from the stage of America’s fortunes or misfortunes. Walsh was brought up in Southside Boston, Dorchester and he participates in telling what he knows of the life of Sean and the Irish of his neighbourhood. The Director Michael Fanning puts across through interview and film footage from ESPN and HBO sports along with family friends and others Irish diaspora who took a criminal route to their lives, he uses the central biographical account of the native Rónán Mac Con Iomaire heavily and journalistically forensic in telling Sean Mannion’s journey with huge respect and homage to the man, Ros Muc, the region and Island.

The Ros Muc origins are worth telling as they bring in the imagination of the man. Within him he realised his strengths and his athletiscm which would later be focused in Boxing. With a pal he would spend time exchanging blows with a sparring partner and together they bought a pair of Boxing gloves. This would mean they would swap and Sean ended up using them most. The Television of Crystal dreams of black and white Boxing was a staple or escapism. GB had Henry Cooper popularise the appetite and Jack London with eventually the one who Cooper famously knocked down, Cassius Clay known later as Muhammad Ali coming into the scene with a legion of followers after the Olympics and he brought out the Irish and GB love of Boxing as a sport. From Hemingway to Shaw through, Conrad, Runyan many writers have taken in this rawest of sports. It was this magnet which put into Sean the notion he could be as good as them if he worked hard. There was a local club found and it was run by Michael Flatherty whose own knowledge and wise head as well as counsel would create a ring fighter. Very soon the young Sean Mannion would hold 17 County and Provincial titles which would taken him further to the National Amateur Boxing Championships. These were six round contests and they were televised. On the back of his ring vest the words – St Oliver’s A.B.C. Girley were printed in copperplate letters. If I’m not mistaken on commentary, uncredited, was Eamon Andrews. This is your Life sharply ironically his claim to fame alongside his astute eye for sporting drama.

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Boston’s twins

The Boston part of the story is the arrival to fight for further fame and glory by joining a gym still a teenager. At Connolly’s Gym his sparring partners included a member of Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill gang, Irish-American mobster Patrick Nee, who, another Ros Muc native. Also around was another Irishman, former mobster John “Red” O’Shea. Author of a All Souls Michael Patrick MacDonald who lost a large part of his own family to Gangsters is active in combating violence and now lives in New York. The arrival brought many bouts as Sean rose to as they say to become a contender and the appetite among the Boston Irish for a Champion was not lost on Sean and he saw the virtue in ring craft as opposed to gun craft. Both sets of groups in the Southside were not at loggerheads but one probably detested the other for the image of their identity being compromised. There were many Champion boxers in America of their own making. Hearn, Duran, Hagler, De La Hoya, and one Mannion would eventually meet in the ring, Michael McCallum. The later was and is lesser known but he was a lean tall long reach fighter who was not a warrior but a truly great boxer. His encounter with Sean Mannion whose unorthodox Southpaw style; it couldn’t be tagged as even truly southpaw was one which only a gifted boxer could adapt to and counter. Mike McCallum now 60 and paunchy was a Jamaican boxer who competed from 1981 to 1997. He is a three-weight world champion.

In-Chul Baek was a boxer Mannion had to face to go up a level and fight McCallum. There was a very unusual outcome to this fight which is covered in the film with damage having been caused by Baek through him hitting the sorest punch of all on the small rib on the torso. He clearly injured Mannion but other things happened to make the title bout happen.

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Being a Contender

If you don’t know your Boxing look away and continue to next section. The fight was for the vacant WBA Junior Middleweight title of which Roberto Duran had been stripped of when he chose to fight Tommy Hearns for the WBC title instead. McCallum coasted to a fifteen round unanimous decision. The fight marked the first time in history two women judged a world championship boxing fight. 1984-10-19 : Mike McCallum 153¾ lbs beat Sean Mannion 154 lbs by UD in round 15 of 15. Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA. Referee: Tony Perez. Judge: Carol Polis 149-136. Judge: Carol Castellano 150-134. Judge: Johnny LoBianco 149-133. So despite the controls being handed to two women which was itself a big move they were unanimous in declaring the fight which went the full 15 rounds in McCallums favour.

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This is the ibroresearch.com part of McCallums history at this time.

….Four more wins, three by KO and McCallum was declared the mandatory challenger for Roberto Duran’s WBA Junior Middleweight Title. The Panamanian was given until April 10, 1984 to meet McCallum or face being stripped of the crown. Although the “Body Snatcher” was a dangerous challenger he was not a super star in the eyes of the boxing public. Like Wall Street, boxing is all about risk versus reward. For Duran this meant a fight with McCallum’s teammate at the Kronk Gym, Tommy Hearns made more sense. Facing Hearns would be risky for the WBC champ but, worth three times as much at the box office as facing McCallum.

Adding to the Jamaican’s predicament was Emmanuel Steward. As trainer of both Hearns and McCallum he would make far more money from his cut of the purse if Hearns faced Duran. McCallum was odd man out, as Duran elected to face the “Hit Man” instead of the “Body Snatcher.” Stripping Duran of his title, the WBA declared that Mike McCallum would face number two contender, Sean Mannion for the vacant WBA title. On October 15, 1984, Mike McCallum became the first Jamaican to win a world championship in the Island’s history. Mannion showed he had a tremendous chin and courage but not the skills in losing a unanimous fifteen round decision at Madison Square Garden in New York City. When McCallum returned to Jamaica it was to a hero’s welcome and a national holiday of celebration. Needless to say the business relationship between Steward and the new WBA champ was over when Duran agreed to face Hearns. McCallum signed with Duva Promotions and acquired a new trainer in George Benton.

Boxings knife edge

There are fewer boxers who would be as brave and fearless as Mannion as this fight showed. McCallum was a brave and master of his craft and wily as both were the Boston Irishman was in a league full of many different fighters whose status is now legendary. The wear and tear on Sean Mannion was carried with great grace and in the ring respect is crucial despite the hype and Entertainment content before and after. Fans love an equal match up no matter the level and each form get is unbelievably tough when this happens for both. McCallum would have gained plenty in this battle for the title. Sean Mannion would have gained his inner knowledge he took part in a dream. For Ros Muc and the man this was a sacrifice of his own body on the line at the utmost height of his capabilities. The fighting Irish would never have been more soundly represented and he was able to hold his head high and still can given the shear bloody mindedness.

The film puts over the main facts of diaspora identity challenges.  The homeplace Ros Muc is one many had been forced to leave. The land and commerce were limited. The former potato blight would have seen many very able people leave under duress and failure of the State governed under the yolk of a Sovereign Britain whose colonisation was upset in the USA which is the sole place immigrants could seek their ‘fortune’. They sought only to be given the tools to live if truth be told and many went beyond their own self beliefs and went to prove a point. That they were as good as anyone on the planet.

The likes of the mobsters featured self analyse with hubris and unwarranted inflated egos. A bullet is no replacement for a mans humanity or warrants a life being regarded as having value. Their sum is lost values and they have taken peoples lives without any remorse. The Boston Mafia also involved itself – after destroying people by exploiting addiction tendencies through monetising cocaine, then later heroin – in more money making schemes sending consignments of Arms and Semtex to Ireland to fuel a terrorists campaign which was itself bound in warped sense of self and national identity. The identity they chose to construct was a fantasy way beyond any Irish probity.

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The Cottage Padraic Pearse grew up in.

An fear a thug an Piarsach go Ros Muc
D’iarr Pádhraic Ó Conghaile ar Chonradh na Gaeilge duine a chur anuas as Bleá Cliath le scrúdú a chur orthu. Ba é an Piarsach a tháinig

The Other Star

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Conclusion ####4

A verdict is easily found for this film of it being a great life story of a brave Irishman well told.  The challenges in and out of the ring were contests which face many in less dramatic or intense ways.  A book Motherland came to mind as it involved travelling the length and breadth of Ireland to explore identity.

Certain things on the periphery but important to explain the man were tentatively danced around. Also the fate of MCallum was never given the strength of telling it deserved. Sean Mannion fought a man who none of the main men would fight – again an extract from ibroresearch.com –

the “Four Kings”, as writer George Kimball had called them; McCallum had failed in his attempt to get any of them into the ring. Marvin Hagler retired in 1987 after losing a disputed decision to Sugar Ray Leonard. Leonard was inactive in 1990 and would lose to Terry Norris by lopsided decision the following year. Roberto Duran, like Sugar Ray was also inactive in 1990, and would lose by TKO due to a shoulder injury to the infamous Pat Lawlor the following year. Tommy Hearns won a decision over Michael Olajide fourteen days after the Watson fight for his only activity of 1990. Did the “Four Kings”, duck the “Body Snatcher” or was he just a victim of timing. Boxing historians can debate the merits of that charge for the ages, but we can only speculate what would have happened if McCallum had been able to get any of them into the ring.

This is a telling part of a story not told. It’s a bit novicey to leave out the background in order to focus on the main event. McCallum fought in the UK a lot because of this. Ever good boxing show has an undercard and this is missing it. Connemara itself is a great underlying facto but again only family and drone shots give any true shape to this Atlantic outlier. America will love this underdog type approach as well as largely focused on the diaspora and Irish abroad. Nonetheless the story is only partially told and it is a sociologically complex one which has currency in our world today. What is the identity of Ireland now?

John Graham

24 November 2017

Belfast

from Friday 24 November 2017 until Thursday November 2017

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Movement is Political – more thoughts.

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