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GUHOYAS.COM Hoya boxing coach Marty Gallagher
Hoya boxing coach Marty Gallagher

October 28, 2008

Cinderella Man James Braddock with Marty, once ranked #7 heavyweight in the world and a sparring partner of Jack Dempsey, Max Schmeling and Joe Louis

If you were enrolled on the mostly male main campus of Georgetown in any year prior to 1973, this blog entry is for you. You will likely remember a large man who was omnipresent in and around the student cafeteria or dining hall and who greeted just about every student who walked by with the familiar refrain of "Hey, buddy."

Three weeks ago, 35 years after he retired from the Hilltop, a small group of family, friends, and fans gathered at the Faculty Club in the Leavey Center to remember and honor Marty Gallagher for his contributions to the Blue and Gray. The occasion was the posthumous induction of Marty into Georgetown's athletic hall of fame.

There are few people around campus who still remember this special man and the services he provided to every student who walked through the front gates at 37th and O Streets. Fewer still have any idea of his earlier career as a professional boxer and then as coach of Georgetown's intercollegiate boxing team. I suspect that the prevailing politically correct attitude on campus would just as soon ignore this interesting period of collegiate athletics when the sport of boxing flourished on campus.

Hall of Fame chair Rory Quirk '65 presented citation and medal to Marty's son, Kevin '65

The development of the sport of boxing on college campuses in the United States can be traced to the period following World War I. It led to a brief but colorful chapter in the history of intercollegiate athletics. This sport, more than any other collegiate ahtletic endeavor, brought educators face to face with a quintessential dilemma that has vexed American society and spirit since this nation's inception.

E.C. Wallenfeldt in his book, The Six Minute Fraternity: The Rise and Fall of NCAA Tournament Boxing, 1932-1960, wrote:

Getting ahead through individual initiative, power, and domination has come to be valued in a capitalistic economic sphere from the first years of this country's existence. Conversely, so have compassion, charity, and respect for human dignity. The intense clash of these values that occurs regularly throughout our society also once took place in the sport of boxing, as conducted in the supposedly enlightened and humane environment of colleges and universities.

Today, nearly fifty years have elapsed since the last intercollegiate boxing tournament. And society continues to struggle with the difficulty of reconciling these opposing values. So rather than ignore the question, I feel compelled to ask:

Where better to explore this paradox of values than on college campuses where educators can provide instruction in and supervision of the necessary skills, physical conditioning, and rules of conduct in the ring?

Intercollegiate Boxing at Georgetown (thanks to Bob Connolly '49 for much of the following background)

College boxing started at Georgetown University in December 1926, when 70 candidates reported to coach Allston Calhoun. The first bout took place at the U.S. Naval Academy in January, 1927 before 5,000 spectators. From that day forward, for the next four decades, boxing became one of the favorite sports on the Hilltop.

In 1928, the inaugural intercollegiate boxing match took place on the Hoya campus against Syracuse University in Ryan Gymnasium. In 1929 and 1930, Jim McNamara served as boxing coach and guided Georgetown to a very respected position in college boxing circles.

For the next 15 years, boxing was a popular student pastime, but Georgetown did not sponsor a varsity team. In 1947, boxing again became a recognized varsity sport under the direction of coach Marty Gallagher. Marty had fought professionally, and was once rated the seventh-ranked heavyweight in the world. A physical training instructor at Georgetown during World War II, Marty established the boxing team following the war and oversaw the varsity program until it was discontinued in the early 1950's. He continued to teach, train, and coach individual student boxers for the remainder of his career on the Hilltop.

During this brief period of intercollegiate team competition, Georgetown boxers fought most of the leading college boxing teams in the nation. The Hoya pugilists distinguished themselves against against such opponents as Maryland, Syracuse, Duke, John Carroll, and Catholic, as well as in the Southern Conference Intercollegiate Tournament and the Eastern Intercollegiate Boxing Tournament.

Members of the Georgetown boxing teams from 1947 to 1952 included Frank Talbot '48, Al Albanese '49, Bob Connolly '49, George Detorie '49, Frank Madden '49, Ray Larrow '49, Nick Szabo '49, Ed Doherty '50, Tommy McGinty '50, Tom Ward '50, Eric Hotung '51, Billy Rose '51, Pat Ruel '51, Pat Palumbo '52, Jim Tully '52, Frank Guarini '53, and Tom Quinn '55.

Coach Marty Gallagher with the 1949 intercollegiate boxing team

Former boxers attending included Bob Connolly '49, Martin Gallagher, Jr. '59, Tom Quinn '55, and Tom Ward '50

Intense local rivalries with area universities produced standing room only crowds of 5,000 or more at each match. The University of Maryland, under the direction of Colonel Heinie Miller, and Catholic University, under Eddie Lafond, had two of the finest squads in the country. Under Marty Gallagher, the Hoyas reached their zenith in the 1949 season. With its most ambitious post-war schedule, the Georgetown boxing team experienced a growing surge of student and fan interest as it faced its two local rivals. Despite a series of close decisions, Catholic's top flight squad bashed their way to a 5-3 triumph over the Hoyas. Captain and future GU Hall of Famer Ray Larrow easily whipped Charlie Rohr in the heavyweight class. Future Hoya Hall of Famer Billy Rose carved a draw and Bob Charlton defeated Cal Nisson. Both Pat Palumbo and Bob Connolly lost disputed split decisions.

The Hoyas continued to distinguish themselves that year in bouts with Maryland, American, John Carroll, and CCNY, finishing with the Southern Conference tournament in Columbia, South Carolina. Marty's lads competed before 35,000 roaring fans during the tourney against bruising combatants from Georgia, Citadel, North Carolina, Maryland, and LSU. Ray Larrow slugged his way to the finals, before losing to Citadel's Bill Ohlandt. Bob Charlton, Bob Connolly, and Pat Palumbo fought their way to the semi-finals where they each lost to the final winners of their respective weight classes.

In subsequent years, the landscape of intercollegiate athletics continued to change both nationally and on the Hilltop. Opposition to the sport of boxing limited further growth of the sport and a retrenchment of athletics on the Georgetown campus forced cutbacks in athletic programs. By 1952, Georgetown was no longer able to field a varsity squad. Nevertheless, Marty persevered with a handful of devotees, taking the best from intramural competition to compete in season-ending intercollegiate competition. His efforts were rewarded in 1955 when Tom Quinn captured the Eastern Intercollegiate heavyweight boxing crown. With demise of collegiate boxing, he was the last man ever to win this title.

Boxing continued at Georgetown into the 1970's under Marty's tutelage through intramurals and instructional classes. Hundreds of young men learned the "manly art of self-defense" under his watchful eye. At least two of his proteges, Art Carter '67 and Art Dumas '72 went on to receive honors in regional Golden Gloves competition.

In the early 1970's, part of the student dining hall in New South was designated, "Marty's on the Potomac." There, just as he had done in Marty's Cafe in the basement of White-Gravenor, Marty personally greeted every student who came in to dine.

Boxer, coach and gentleman, Marty Gallagher was everyone's buddy.

Hoya, Hoya Saxa!

Hoya, Hoya Georgetown!

Hoya Marty! Hoya Marty! Hoya Marty Gallagher!

Coach Marty Gallagher referees an on campus sparring match in McDonough

Prior to his location in New South, Marty's cafe was located in the basement of White-Gravenor

Marty at his retirement dinner with Evening Star columnist Bob Considine and Judge John Sirica

CLICK here for Gallagher Citation

PJM - View From The Hilltop


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