May 20, 2000
Harry Mullan is unknown to many people, but I am extremely priviliged to
have known him. I knew Harry through my father who was Harry's best friend.
My father talked of Harry as a great man, in every sense. They met at St.
Patricks Boys' Grammar School, Armagh, Northern Ireland. My father told me
many things about Harry, but one sticks out in my mind. This nonfiction
tale is told in Harry's pen portrait which he wrote for the programme of the
Boxing weekend (8th - 9th May 1998 in Armagh Grammar School). He wrote of
how he got interested in the boxing business:
"Getting me started in the boxing business might have been on the charge
sheet for my father. When I was seven or eight, an amateur show was staged
in the old Palais de Danse at the end of the Promenade in my home town of
Portstewart, Co Derry, Northern Ireland. The tournament was announced, but
I despaired because of the ticket prices. They were far beyond my budget of
a weekly allowance of a shilling (5 pence). But my father, knowing how keen
I was, treated me to a ringside seat."
At that, Harry was hooked. His journey that began in the Palais, took him
to rather grander venues such as Madison Square Garden, the New Orleans
Superdome and the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Harry's great writings are to be thanked for by a 'legend', according to my
father. Gerry Hicks was teaching Harry English at his Grammar School and
gave Harry a private lesson. Although this lesson was extremely short and
consisted of four words alone, they said a lot. "Damn said the Duchess." You
are probably thinking "What does that guy mean?" but if you are puzzled,
you're meant to be. These were the words of inspiration Harry was given, to
tell him to come up with a witty beginning for an article, to grab the
Thus, Harry's writing is explained.
In London, as a young fan of Boxing News, Harry haunted the street offices
in the hour-long lunch break he had from his civil service job.
He read through endless magazines and issues until the proprietor there,
Vivian Brodsky ordered him to leave saying, "Young man, this is not a public
reading room. Get Out!". Little did Mr. Brodsky know that Harry would
return to that self-same office to join the staff and later on go on to
become the second longest seving editor in the paper's 88-year history.
Harry Mullan watched his first world title fight with Frank in 1965 when
Howard Winstone, their favourite fighter, lost an epic world featherweight
title challenge to Vicente Saldivar in London.
Harry became involved with the Boxing News in 1974, and then became editor
in 1977. He told us in his pen portrait, "Its strange how far a boyhood
interest can take you".
He left Boxing News in October 1996 since he had been a full-time freelance
jounalist, mainly with the Independent on Sunday and Total Sport.
Harry has written many wonderful and inspiring books for boxing fans. Some
of these books include, Boxing, the Last 25 years, The Illustrated History
of Boxing, The Book of Boxing Quotations, Fighting Words, The Ultimate
Encyclopedia of Boxing and Heroes and Hard Men. Harry also co/wrote
McGuigan, the untold story.
Harry wrote The Book of Boxing Quotations to prove that the majority of
boxers are not monosyllabic buffoons as thought Sylvester Mittee, 'The Sage
of Bethnal Green'. Evidence of the 'Damn said the Duchess' lesson is shown in his witty chapter headings such as 'Corn on the Cobb' and 'Just Puff your Chest'.
Harry also wrote The World Encyclopedia of Boxing. To the great sadness of
his wife and family, Harry died during this publication, but at Harry's
request, the updating work was carried out by friend and fellow boxing
writer, Bob Mee. Harry wrote this encyclopedia as the up-to-date volume,
following the late friend and mentor of Harrys, Gilbert Odd, who wrote his
encyclopedia of boxing in 1983.
Harry changed many people's views on boxing, one of those people being
I was lucky enough to have met Harry when he visited our family home in Co
Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He was a warm, affectionate person whose modesty
disguised his many talents as a writer and broadcaster.
It was a privilege for me to have known him.
Dungannon, Northern Ireland.
[Editor's Note: I had the pleasure of meeting Harry Mullan just once, at the Boxing Hall of Fame. Mr. Mullan impressed me as a humble, good man. I regret now that I did not tell him how much his work had influeced my own decision to become a boxing historian at a serious level. His book The Great Book of Boxing (ISBN 0-517-62953-4) is a wonderful overview of boxing, with hundreds of rare photos from Mullan's colection. Every serious boxing library should have this book. Mike DeLisa, CBZ]