Irish Boxer's Dignity Restored in Yonkers After Half a Century
'Yonkers Favorite' Lightweight Boxing Champ Shamus O'Brien
Donated Tombstone for Michael J. Hogan aka Shamus O'Brien
Lightweight Boxing Champion Shamus O'Brien -- 1913 Photo
Dozens of friends, relatives and Yonkers officials braved 103-degree temperatures on Friday, July 22, 2011 to pay tribute to Michael J. Hogan, a native of Dungarvan, Ireland, who gained fame in his adopted city of Yonkers nearly 100 years ago as lightweight boxing champion Shamus O'Brien.
The tombstone dedication was officiated by Monsignor George Kuhn of St. Joseph's Church who offered prayers and blessed the stone.
Yonkers Mayor Issues Proclamation
Yonkers Mayor Philip A. Amicone and New York State Assemblyman Mike Spano were on hand to pay their respects to Shamus, who was well known during his fighting days -- which spanned 18 years from 1910 to 1928. Mayor Amicone further honored Michael J. Hogan in a formal Proclamation in which the city recognized Shamus for "a lifetime of achievements and accomplishments."
Many friends and relatives gathered together after the ceremony at Rory Dolan's Irish Pub in Yonkers.
Shamus, who died in 1959, was an Irish immigrant who adopted the city of Yonkers as his home when he arrived in the United States from Dungarvan, Ireland, in 1906. His passage on the RMS Umbria was paid by his uncle, Patrick, who worked at the Alexander Smith carpet factory and lived in company housing on Moquette Row in Yonkers. Shamus took up boxing shortly afterward and fought well over 100 matches against many great champions, including Benny Leonard and Mickey Walker, thereby winning acclaim as "Yonkers Favorite."
When a grandson of Shamus, William F. Torpey, learned that the famed boxer had been buried without a tombstone -- or even a marker showing his name -- he appealed to the boxing community for help to restore the dignity that Michael Hogan had lost for so many years.
Boxing Community to the Rescue
The Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, along with Ring 8 of the Veteran Boxers Association of New York and the Artists Memorial Monuments, pulled no punches and immediately came to the rescue. The rugged Irishman's dignity was finally restored when the boxing community gave Shamus O'Brien one more victory: his own tombstone -- and not just any tombstone.
Shamus now rests under a beautiful granite stone featuring a shamrock recognizing his Irish heritage, a pair of boxing gloves recognizing his prowess in the ring, a classic Celtic Cross acknowledging his Catholic faith and inscribed with his name: Michael J. Hogan AKA Shamus O'Brien, restoring his dignity for eternity. The stone, donated by Artists Memorial Monuments of Staten Island, N.Y., was installed in the Saint Jude Section of St. Joseph's Cemetery.
Shamus was remembered in 1959 for three solid days by hundreds who passed through the Flynn Memorial Home, then on Ludlow Street, to pay their respects. A Mass of Christian Burial had been held at St. Peter's Church on Riverdale Avenue.
According to his son, John Hogan, Shamus had requested that his funeral procession pass through Getty Square. A long line of cars wended their way through the hub of the city and denizens of Yonkers watched as the onetime Irish champion was taken to the cemetery on Truman Avenue for burial.
Michael Hogan was the estranged husband of Adelaide Hogan of Yonkers. The couple, who were married in 1910, had eight children: John, Michael "Mitch", Edward, William, Elena "Helen" Torpey, Mary "Mae" Dropauer, and two infant twins, Gilbert and Adelaide, who died in the tragic influenza outbreak of the early 1900s.
Shamus' Son a Yonkers War Hero
All four sons served their country during World War II, including William Hogan, whose name appears on the Yonkers City Hall Veterans Memorial near Getty Square among those who gave their lives for their country. Young Bill Hogan was killed in action by gunfire when his ship, the USS Gregory, was outnumbered and sunk by Japanese destroyers in a surprise midnight attack.
Shamus O'Brien's great great grandson, John Hogan IV of Yonkers, is following in his famous relatives footsteps in the ring. Young Hogan is an amateur featherweight who trains under the auspices of the Yonkers Police Athletic League. John fought recently in the Golden Gloves.
Shamus, whose cauliflowered ears gave testimony to his many hard fought bouts, launched his boxing career by fighting in an exhibition at the infamous Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, N.Y.
Shamus Fought All Comers
The scrappy lightweight boxer won the admiration and respect of his fellow Yonkers residents by fighting just about anybody and everybody from the great lightweight champion Benny Leonard and welterweight champion Mickey Walker (who he defeated in two out of three contests by "newspaper decisions) to such fighters as featherweight and lightweight boxer George "KO" Chaney, middleweight Rocky Kansas and featherweight champ Johnny Dundee.
The young Irishman won the Westchester County lightweight championship, 1911-12. In 1913 he fought Yorkville lightweight champion Eddie Smith in Yonkers. The fight poster advertising the match, which was won by Smith, can be seen below.
Later in his career Shamus became a worthy opponent for champions and a "trial horse" testing young fighters. He gained the reputations as "a good fighter, win or lose."
Before hanging up his gloves in 1928 Shamus returned to Ireland to win the Irish lightweight title.
Honored By Hometown in Ireland
More recently Shamus O'Brien's exploits have been chronicled by Eddie Cantwell, president of the Waterford County Museum in Dungarvan, Ireland, and in the newsletter of the Yonkers Historical Society. The museum recently opened a new sports section which includes a display of a Shamus O'Brien's boxing poster from 1913.
Contributions may be made to the Shamus O'Brien Fund, Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, 543 Cary Avenue, Staten Island, N.Y. 10310.
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More About Shamus O'Brien:
Born Michael Joseph Hogan
Fought as Shamus O'Brien
Billed as 'Yonkers Favorite'
Born: August 5, 1890 in Ballinacourty, Dungarvan, County Waterford, Ireland.
Died: April 13, 1959 of pneumonia, St. John’s Riverside Hospital, Yonkers, N.Y. Family, friends and fans of Shamus O'Brien attending calling hours for three days at the Flynn Funeral Home, then on Ludlow Street, A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Peter's Church at thecorner of Ludlow Street and Riverdale Avenue in Yonkers, N.Y.
Great Great Grandson Carries On Tradition
Shamus' great great grandson, John Hogan IV of Yonkers, is carrying on his great tradition as an amateur boxer who trains under the Yonkers Police Athletic League program on North Broadway.As a boy in Dungarvan, he was a well-known footballer. He emigrated from Ireland to New York in 1906.
Shamus (Michael J. Hogan) was the son of Michael Hogan and Ellen (Meade) Hogan. He was one of five children.
His career as a lightweight boxer began in 1906 when he fought an Exhibition Bout for the prisoners at the infamous Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, N.Y.
Boxing Record (According to boxrec.com):
Won 15 (KO 4) + Lost 22 (KO 4) + Drawn 3 = 43
rounds boxed 372
Newspaper Decisions won 16 : lost 34 : Drawn 9
rounds boxed 574
Total Bouts 102 KO% 3.92
Note: Shamus O'Brien fought more than 400 bouts in his career, according to his son, John, but many were not recorded in the books for a variety of reasons. More than 100 fights have been verified by the boxing community.
Shamus fought the great Benny Leonard at least three times, once to a "no decision." He also fought Hall of Famer Mickey Walker three times and defeated the Hall of Fame champion fighter in two of those three 12-round fights.
Shamus began fighting in the bare knuckle days. Many of his fights took place at the Raven Athletic Club in New York City where he did much of his training. He also trained occasionally in Newburgh, N.Y.
A Familiar Figure Around Getty Square
Shamus O'Brien was a familiar figure around Getty Square in Yonkers where his exploits were well known and where the handsome young man was said to be "always scapping."
Shamus was reported to be a “trial horse” for up and coming young fighters. In various periods of their careers, Shamus, at 135 pounds, fought any and all comers, including welterweight Mickey Walker (early In his career), middleweight Rocky Kansas, welterweight champ Pete Latzo, featherweight champ Johnny Dundee, Pinky Marshall, Jack Britton, George K. O’Chaney and negro champ Leo Johnson.
At various times Shamus worked as a bartender, an iron worker and in construction.. After fighting in various locations around the country, he hung up his gloves in 1928, but not before returning to Ireland to win the lightweight title in his native country.
Son, William Hogan, Gave His Life for His Country in World War II
Michael J.Hogan was estranged from his wife, Adelaide. The couple had eight children, John, Michael "Mitch", Edward, William, Elena "Helen" Torpey, Mary "Mae" Dropauer, and two infant twins, Gilbert and Adelaide, both of whom died in the tragic influenza outbreak of the early 1900s. Their son, William, died in a battle with Japanese destroyers on Oct. 5, 1942 when his ship, USS Gregory, was sunk in the waters near Guadalcanal. His sons, John and Michael both served in the U.S. Navy during WW II while Edward flew P-51 fighter planes in the Army Air Force.
Shamus O'Brien was only 6 years old when his father, Michael, succumbed to injuries resulting from his efforts to rescue survivors of the ill-fated Moresby, which sunk in Dungarvan Bay in Ireland. Only five of the 25 persons on board survived.
Shamus O'Brien's Grandson William F. Torpey, left, with Yonkers Mayor Philip A. Amicone at July 22, 2011 Memorial
Kin of Michael J. Hogan aka Shamus O'Brien Gather at Rory Dolan's Irish Pub in Yonkers Following Memorial
City of Yonkers Honors Michael J. Hogan aka Shamus O'Brien
Under the Tent at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Yonkers
Monsignor George Kuhn of St. Joseph Church and William F. Torpey, grandson of Shamus O'Brien, at Blessing of tombstone
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Lightweight Shamus O'Brien was touted as "Yonkers Favorite" when the popular Irish champion traded blows with the likes of Benny Leonard and Mickey Walker. He died in 1959 without a grave marker.