LUKE Leahy was raised on tales of how his boxer grandpa beat the great Sugar Ray Robinson and counted the likes of Muhammad Ali and Barry McGuigan as close friends.
Now, as he aims to add a new chapter to his family’s sporting narrative, the Falkirk defender will draw inspiration from the late Mick Leahy as he aims to land his own knockout blow on Inverness Caley Thistle in Saturday’s Scottish Cup final.
Cork-born Mick, an amateur Irish lightweight champion, turned professional in 1956 after moving from his homeland to Coventry, and the following years were the stuff of which dreams are made.
Boxing took Leahy to Australia and New Zealand for bouts and in November 1962 to the famous Madison Square Garden, while, in May 1963, he took just one minute and 45 seconds to knock out George Aldridge to become British middleweight champion.
That he was embraced in the ring after his victory by such celebrated figures as Robinson, Ali and Randy Turpin was a measure of the esteem in which he was held by his peers.
But Leahy’s career reached its peak with a fight in Paisley against Robinson, the five-times world middleweight champion, regarded by many as the greatest boxer of all time.
The American, piped into the ring, may have been past his best by the time the pair met in 1964, but Leahy’s points victory after ten close-fought rounds earned him even greater respect.
Unfortunately, Leahy’s time as a boxer came to a heart-breaking end in 1965 when he drove into the back of a car transporter that had been stopped by its driver, who was asleep with the lights off.
Mick lost sight in his left eye and suffered damage to his hearing, and he was forced to give up boxing.
In later life, Leahy developed Alzheimer’s and he died in 2010, aged 74. His funeral was attended by around 400 people and filmed by the BBC.
It is an incredible sporting heritage that provides further inspiration for his grandson, Luke, as Falkirk bid to punch above their weight in Saturday’s showpiece showdown with Inverness at Hampden.
He said: “My grandfather was a boxer called Mick Leahy and I’ve loved hearing all the stories about him as I’ve grown up.
“He was in a bad accident and had to retire early, and he got Alzheimer’s, so he wasn’t himself, really, in later life. But my dad told me all the stories about my Grandpa’s time as a boxer and it was brilliant listening to them.
“He fought Sugar Ray Robinson – and beat him – and not many can say that. There’s a big photo at my grandma’s house of him in the ring with Sugar Ray Robinson.
“All these stories of when he was boxing and the people he knew and everything have been handed down to me from my gran and my dad.
“I never really saw the proper Mick Leahy, which was sad.
“He died a few years ago and, when he passed on, Barry McGuigan went round to my Gran’s house to make sure she was okay because a lot went on her shoulders looking after him. I was never really into boxing, but this will, hopefully, be another chapter in the Leahy sporting story
As if the tales of Mick’s achievements in the ring are not enough, Luke also tells of the moment his grandpa’s no-show left a mark on his adopted hometown of Coventry.
Unable to help out with a public appearance at a chip shop owned by former boxer Jack Bodell, Leahy’s replacement was none other than “The Greatest”.
Luke said: “There was one story about a chip shop in Coventry that my grandpa was asked to open but couldn’t. So, Muhammed Ali came to Coventry to open it, and was mobbed by thousands. It turns out my grandpa was good pals with Muhammad Ali.”