Tracy Callis
1788  1820 Pugilist, Publican, Playboy
By Patrick Myler

Patrick Myler, the excellent boxing writer, has done it again. This time he has written a beautiful blend of facts and events - pugilistic, historic and personal - in the life of the Irish pugilistic legend, Dan Donnelly. This man, the owner of the famous arm, lived fast, loved hard and died young - and drank plenty along the way.

As one reads through this account of the life of Donnelly, a detailed description of the times in which he lived is presented. The social conditions under which he existed, his heavy drinking and the manner in which the "personable" Dan behaved, his disregard of good judgment (at times) and his feared style of fighting are conveyed. The bulldog attitude of Dan and the men of the ring in his time comes through time and again.

Donnelly enjoyed a good friend, a good drink and a good fight. He drank often and excessively. In the ring, he fought hard, although one might say void of style, and hit with "knock 'em dead" power. Like a good many fighters, Donnelly disliked training but loved the ladies. On many occasions, his personal behavior was not admirable but he became an idol of the Irish public because of his fists.

Dan tangled with the well-known English champions of that day - Tom Hall, George Cooper and Tom Oliver and came away victorious. Patrick Myler well describes these fights and the surrounding events leading up to them. These contests brought fame and money to Donnelly who foolishly squandered his riches with his drinking and poor behavior.

Mr. Myler includes a number of descriptions and observations from sources who wrote of Donnelly's day - such as Pierce Egan, Harry Furniss and Frances Dowling. Their words impart a detailed and realistic view of the man and his encounters, both in and out of the ring. In addition, a number of interesting photographs and sketches are placed appropriately in the book that enhance the reading.

The book reads easily, is informative and quite interesting. It is recommended to boxing fans who want to know more about Dan Donnelly and the men from the bare-knuckle days. A solid promise -> those who read this book will come away with a much greater knowledge of the customs of the people during those times and their viewpoints on various matters - as well as a better knowledge of the men who ventured into the ring.

The cost is $15 (plus $4 postage) for buyers from the United States. Its cost in the United Kingdom is 10 pounds and 12 euros in Europe (plus postage). This educational book can be purchased through -

It can also be purchased at

About the Author (from and

Patrick Myler is a boxing writer and Dublin historian, author of The Fighting Irish: Ireland's role in world boxing history and A Century of Boxing Greats, amongst others. He worked as a journalist in England before taking the post of chief sub-editor of the Sunday News in Belfast. On returning to his native Dublin, he served as chief sub-editor and then as an assistant editor of the Evening Herald for thirty years. He now writes a weekly boxing column for that paper.

 Dan Donnelly

Patrick Myler and children, David, Alan and Gillian;
Patrick is holding Donnelly's arm

The International Boxing Hall of Fame describes Donnelly as follows --

Born March 1788 in Dublin, Ireland, Donnelly would become the first Irish-born heavyweight champion.

Donnelly's first recorded bout was a September 14, 1814 contest with Tom Hall. Nearly 20,000 spectators saw Donnelly defeat Hall in twenty minutes at the Curragh of Kildare for a purse of 100 sovereigns. Fifteen months later (December 13, 1815), at the same venue, he defeated English pugilist George Cooper in 11 intense rounds. Donnelly then ventured on a successful tour of England. In 1819 he drew with Jack Carter before stopping Tom Oliver over 34 rounds. It is said that over $500,000 was wagered on the contest. He returned to Ireland for a series of exhibition bouts with George Cooper and Bob Gregson.

One of the most revered athletes in Ireland, Donnelly was knighted by Prince Regent and is celebrated in both song and story. When Donnelly died on February 18, 1820, at the age of 32, nearly 70,000 admirers reportedly witnessed his funeral procession through Dublin. He was buried at Bully's Acre, Kilmainham, Dublin, only to have gravediggers steal his body and sell it to a Dublin surgeon. The surgeon removed his right arm to study the muscle structure and then re-buried the remains. The famous pugilist's mummified arm has since been on display in pubs throughout Ireland.
Born: March 1788
Died: Feb 18, 1820
Induction: 2008

Review courtesy of Tracy Callis, Historian, International Boxing Research Organization

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