Left-back Luke is proud as punch of grandad’s talents

Boxing at Paisley - Sugar Ray Robinson v Mick Leahy during a middleweight contest
Boxing at Paisley - Sugar Ray Robinson v Mick Leahy during a middleweight contest

He’s never thrown a punch in anger and never been in a fight - but Luke Leahy came off the park with a shiner his grandad would have been proud of recently.

“It was an elbow from Derek Lyle against Queen of the South,” he explained. “I can’t take a punch but I do take an elbow as you can see!”

And after scoring a haymaker of his own on Saturday Leahy recalls how his grandad could take a punch - and then some.

Mick Leahy was a European boxing champion – and once memorably defeated the man considered the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time, one Sugar Ray Robinson.

“Boxing runs in my family,” admited Leahy.

“But football’s always been the sport for me.”

When his grandad - an Irishman who settled in Coventry - was at his peak, Leahy was not yet born; but he’s heard all the stories, seen the pictures and the huge painting on his grandparents’ wall as well as researching his career on the internet.

“There’s a Youtube video of his bout with Sugar Ray and that’s quite something for me to sit down and watch. My grandma is in it too. It’s very strange. But you get a sense of what a big deal his titles were and what he achieved in it.”

And the tales just rubber-stamp his grandad’s greatness.

There’s one where after a successful bout Leahy’s arms were held aloft and he was then hoisted onto the shoulders of some illustrious spectators including Muhammed Ali.

Then there’s the victory over the best boxer of all time in Paisley in 1964.

However they’re now just stories and pictures for Luke who is beginning to cement his place as a left-back in the Falkirk first team this season.

“I wouldn’t say I really knew my grandad well as he had developed Alzheimers as I was growing up – it’s a terrible illness.

“My grandma took sole care of him and though we’d see him I don’t think we really knew him, certainly not as he was then.

“He had a car crash on the way to a weigh-in which caused a lot of problems - but he was very highly thought of, there’s no doubt about that. I didn’t really know that until we went to an Alzheimer’s fundraising event with boxing in Liverpool as the family representatives.

“People knew him and there were some big names there which kind of brought it home how big his achievements were.”

Boxing may have stopped with Luke’s generation but his father and particularly his Uncle Paul won district titles, but he has used boxing training to keep fit for football and pre-season.

And perhaps the tale which sums up Mick Leahy’s standing in the world of boxing is one of the most humbling, Luke laughs.

“He once called Muhammed Ali to come along to Coventry to open a chip shop near where we grew up – and he did!”