It’s a credo McLoughlin has lived by since leaving Ireland in 1981, while struggling to establish himself in the fight business.
And the persistence is paying off. McLoughlin, already a recognizable figure on the East Coast fight scene, courtesy of the 15-0 John Duddy, is slated to make his promotional debut tomorrow with the first major St. Patrick’s Day eve show in New York in recent memory.
Duddy will headline the “Irish Express” card at the Theater at Madison Square Garden with Irish middleweight titlist Matt Macklin in the co-feature and 154-pounder James Moore, County Clare heavyweight James Clancy and Maureen Shea in separate bouts.
McLoughlin sees the event as the beginning of Duddy’s march to serious world title contender status, culminating in what he hopes will be the biggest night of both their careers on St. Patrick’s Day eve, 2007.
“This year will be a busy and exciting year for John,” he remarked. “There will be a few title fights leading up to March 16, 2007. That night, it could be for the WBC, the WBO or one of the major [world] titles and I hope Irish Ropes, at worst, will be co-promoting.”
Lofty goals, indeed. But given the adversities McLoughlin has overcome in his 49 years, and the hard-punching Duddy’s enormous potential, very doable.
McLoughlin’s life has never been short of challenges. The Mayo-born former amateur prospect lost his right leg in a motorcycle crash at age 19, but even that couldn’t stop him from sky diving, prospecting for gold or culling kangaroos from helicopters in Australia years later.
He was on course to making the 1976 Irish Olympic squad when he faced Pierre Valcastue, in the semi-final of the European Under-19 Championships in Munich in January 1975. The Frenchman, who later went on to fight Sugar Ray Leonard in the Montreal Olympics, was felled by a left hook in the second round. A month later, McLoughlin had the motorbike accident, ending his ring career.
“I had a record of 60-7 as an amateur, and with those 60 wins, I probably had 52 or 53 knockouts, and out of those, 46 of them were from the left hook to the body,” he recalls.
Prosthetic leg and all, would make one comeback at age 42 in 1998 to settle a tiff with a rival Gleason’s Gym trainer, a 44 year-old ex-Chicago pro named John Toliaferro, who’d had two hip replacements.
“It’s a silly thing, like all feuds are, between two guys that should know better,” Gleason’s proprietor, Bruce Silverglade frowned then.
At any rate, McLoughlin dusted off the old left hook and stopped Toliaferro in three rounds at the Elks Club in Maspeth, Queens.
He’d moved to Maspeth from Ireland in 1981, spent five years as an auto mechanic there and the next five on an odyssey through the Australian outback. Returning to the U.S. in 1991, McLoughlin got into the construction business and drove a bus up and down the East Coast, among other things.
The sweet science, however, remained his true passion and its siren call was irresistible.
“While doing these things, I always had boxing in the back of my mind,” he said. “Whatever you do, you have to get into it for the love of it and not just for the money.”
In 1998, McLoughlin, who’d co-owned a gym back home after his accident, formed the Irish Ropes Boxing Club in Maspeth. Alo Kelly, a light heavyweight of promise, came over from Mullinger, and stormed into the New York Daily News Golden Gloves final.
The five-time All-Ireland champion appeared to do enough to win against Troy Sampson but Irish Ropes BC were small fish in local boxing and he ended up on the short end of a points decision.
Two years later, Kelly reached the Golden Gloves semis where he lost to defending champ Carlos Sanchez. McLoughlin still had high hopes for then 22 year-old as a pro. Kelly, however, had other issues and returned to Ireland.
“Poor Alo, he had a lot of baggage with him owing to a lot of family commitments,” McLoughlin noted.
With the Irish Ropes dormant, McLoughlin’s next move was to take a stab at playing Don King. He teamed up with Wexford-born Martin Somers in a venture called Rockall Promotions.
Rockall held several shows in 2000, giving then undefeated lightweight Martin O’Malley, super bantamweight John Lowey and Cathal O’Grady some exposure in the New York area.
McLoughlin was out of boxing completely the following year, which he spent driving a bus “down to Florida, the Virginias and the Carolinas,” for Trans Express. After 9/11, he bought a few properties and dabbled in real estate as a landlord and broker while driving a truck for younger brother Tony’s construction company.
“Then I got sick of all that,” he said. “My passion was always to get back in boxing.”
“I got in contact with John through an old acquaintance, Tom Ward, with whom I’d co-owned a boxing gym in Mullingar, and Tony Smith,” McLoughlin said. “They told me about John and how sick he was of the amateur game and how they thought America would be good for him.”
Undeterred by past setbacks with Kelly and Rockall Promotions, McLoughlin called up Duddy in Derry and invited him over in early 2003.
“He loved it absolutely,” remembered McLoughlin, who quickly realized that he had found someone special.
“He was living with me and I used to see his thirst for the sport and how he wanted to learn and the way he lived his life,” McLoughlin recalled.
Once Duddy had committed to prizefighting, McLoughlin felt that he had to make a total commitment as well. He gave up his other pursuits to push the young prospect.
The Irish Ropes name was revived. Some $300,000 was pumped into a gym by that name in Far Rockaway, and younger brothers Martin and Tony got involved, too, paying Duddy and later, light middleweight James Moore, their wages and rent.
Duddy, who ended an outstanding 100-30 amateur career by winning the junior middleweight title in a New York area tournament in 2003, made his pro debut that fall.
There was an instant buzz about Duddy, a good looking, charismatic kid who punched like a mule. He went 4-0 within four months and then went home for a short holiday only to be barred from re-entering the U.S. because of a visa issue.
Once again, it seemed that McLoughlin’s efforts would come to nought. He admits to giving up hope at one point during the seven-month battle with immigration to get Duddy back. But return he did and the rest remains history in the making.
McLoughlin’s Irish Ropes stable now comprises three professional fighters: Duddy, the 4-0 Moore and 0-0-2 American bantamweight Max Daguizan.
Trainer Harry Keitt, the man tasked with leading the stable to the top of the boxing food chain, speaks highly of the slightly hunched figure with a shock of white hair and congenial disposition.
“I knew Eddie from Gleason’s Gym and he’s always been a straight-up guy – a guy you can trust, and in boxing, there’re not too many people you can trust,” Keitt said.
These are sentiments echoed widely by those that have dealings with McLoughlin, a man whose persistence has already produced a possible future Irish ring legend.