Katie Taylor gets behind statue bid to honour Deirdre Gogarty in Drogheda
KATIE Taylor and boxing Hall of Famer Christy Martin are just some of the stellar names who have thrown their weight behind a fundraising campaign to erect a statue of Ireland’s first female world champion, Deirdre Gogarty.
The Deirdre Gogarty Legacy Committee has set a target of €100,000 as they bid to honour the Drogheda trailblazer in her hometown – with the campaign getting under way 25 years after she claimed the featherweight World title against Bonnie Canino in Florida.
It was the high point of a remarkable journey for Gogarty who, in 1991, took part in the first female boxing bout on Irish soil before pursuing her career Stateside under the watchful eye of former light-heavyweight contender Beau Williford.
There were no shortage of ups and downs in the years that followed, but in 1996 Gogarty and American Christy Martin, dubbed the female Mike Tyson, served up a barnburner on the undercard of Tyson’s pay-per-view showdown with Frank Bruno in Las Vegas.
Although she lost, Gogarty had helped propel female boxing somewhere towards the mainstream, inspiring the likes of Taylor back home. Indeed, not long after an 11-year-old Taylor wrote a letter to Gogarty, outlining what an inspiration she had been.
It is no wonder then that the 2012 Olympic gold medallist woman is fully supportive of the campaign to recognise a woman whose importance has gone under the radar for too long.
“I'm delighted that Deirdre's contribution to the sport is being recognised,” said Taylor.
“She was a true pioneer for women in boxing and one of my heroes growing up. She's been a huge support to me over the years and it's women like Deirdre and her fights with the likes of Christy Martin who paved the way for myself and the current generation of female fighters.”
Those sentiments were echoed by former foe Martin, with ‘The Coalminer’s Daughter’ paying tribute to her one-time opponent.
“Deirdre Gogarty was tough as nails in the boxing ring and together we changed the world of women’s boxing,” she said.
“For that alone, I think a statue is only fitting. Deirdre Gogarty is a champion in and out of ring and it is a privilege for me to call her my friend.”
Another female boxing pioneer, England’s Jane Couch, added her voice to the campaign, describing Gogarty as an “inspiration”.
“Deirdre really should have a statue,” said Couch, who was the UK’s first licensed female boxer.
“Without Deirdre none of us would have been able to do what we did and women’s boxing wouldn't be in the position it is today.
“She was my inspiration and my reason for taking up boxing.”
Gogarty, who has lived in Louisiana since relocating to America’s Deep South over 30 years ago, is as modest now as she was during her fighting prime, when Williford was often the one to fight her corner during trying times.
But she admits being honoured by Drogheda would be a dream come true.
“I cannot begin to express how thrilled I am about the potential of a statue in the place where my journey began,” said Gogarty, who was inducted into the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015.
“When Drogheda put up the statue of Tony ‘Socks’ Byrne, I was in awe. I wanted to accomplish great things like Byrne’s Olympic medal, but women were not allowed box amateur, or in the Olympics back then, which was hugely frustrating.
“I made the difficult decision to leave Drogheda, turn professional, and move to the United States. Eventually I fulfilled my dream of winning a world title, just like my idol Barry McGuigan.
“However, it would’ve been in vain if I weren’t able to break down barriers for other female boxers. So in the same way that I was inspired by Byrne’s statue, I hope that my statue will remind others that the most important factor in pursuing a dream is that persistence is everything.”
Monasterboice native Ciaran McIvor - of the ‘Boxing Bants’ podcast - has spearheaded the Deirdre Gogarty Legacy Committee, which also includes Natalie Kelly of the Drogheda Dolls, Louth County Councillor Joanna Byrne , Sinéad Brassil (LMFM radio) and David Thornton (Drogheda Boxing Club).
Fundraising has commenced, to donate visit https://gofund.me/3689c910