From Lisnaskea to Las Vegas and the greatest fight

SPORTS writer Brian Doogan has come a long way from his youthful days
in Lisnaskea where he regularly bought his copy of ’The Ring’ from Hugh McBrien’s newsagents shop.
It was Barry McGuigan’s heroics during a period which was mired in ‘The Troubles’ which left a big impression on him as did what he describes as ‘the entire theatre of sport’.
Billy Bingham’s Northern Ireland had reached the quarter-finals of the
1982 World Cup, Dennis Taylor was the world snooker champion having
won the final frame on the final black ball against Alex Higgins’ nemesis, Steve Davis, and every time you listened to the news on the radio Sean Kelly had won another cycling race.
“These were all important in terms of building pride and esteem and a sense of aspiration and sport became a source of deep fascination in my life, especially boxing and football, and I set my mind on being a sports reporter,” said Brian, who is the son of Michael and Celia.
Now Brian has written a new book, to be released next week, called ‘The SuperFight: Marvelous Marvin Hagler – Sugar Ray Leonard’, two of the most prominent and celebrated boxers in the world who come together to contest the $100million SuperFight on April 6, 1987 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
But the book is not just about a fight in a boxing ring. The story of The SuperFight goes much deeper. It is a psychological thriller, embracing an emergent, elaborate, some might suggest Machiavellian plot. Key moments are explored in the recent social history of the United States. Two remarkable lives are detailed, along with the demons that drove both men and the formidable challenges they overcame inside and outside the ring.
Brian explains why he decided to write this book.
“I’ve been fascinated by sport and boxing throughout my life, Marvin and Ray are two of the best exponents of the ‘Sweet Science’ and The SuperFight was one of the big fights in boxing history.
“I felt that it was worth visiting in detail. It is far more than just about boxing. It’s very much covering the lives and careers of Marvin Hagler and Ray Leonard. In particular Marvin’s story, growing up in Newark, New Jersey at a time of the race riots in the late 1960s.
“I felt that was particularly relevant at this time especially with what is happening now in the United States.
He also felt that element of Marvin’s story had not been told in the kind of detail that was worth exploring.
“And I thought this is central to understanding Hagler as a man and what drove him to be the relentless fighter he was in the ring – a man who would literally run across the ring to finish his prey,” explained Brian who also wrote Joe Calzaghe’s autobiography ‘No Ordinary Joe’ which was a Sunday Times best seller.
“And indeed Ray, the all-American kid who won Olympic gold in Montreal
and proved his mettle in unforgettable encounters with Wilfred Benitez
and especially Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns and then got robbed of
his career when he suffered a detached retina before his comeback.
“He was a victim of sexual abuse when he was young, he became a cocaine user and when he was boxing’s biggest superstar he was also an alcoholic.
“It was a classic two character drama, a compelling story to be told about these two guys and their fight at Caesars Palace, immortalised as ‘The Superfight’ and still sparks debate today as to who really won the fight.”
In terms of the research he had been researching for 20 years. He had interviewed them both at length several times and spoke to several of the people around them at length and it was the accumulation of that and further research which has brought about the book.
So the seed for journalism and sports writing was sown in Lisnaskea from his early teenage years when he bought a copy of ‘The Ring’ in Hugh McBrien’s newsagents every week.
“It probably came from a shared passion for sports and good writing” said Brian, who still visits home regularly.
“I followed good writers throughout my life and in particular sportswriters. I was very fortunate that the Daily Express, for whom Jim
Lawton was the chief sports writer was something I was able to read every day and I was able to read Hugh McIlvanney every day. That I suppose provided my inspiration.”
It all began as a young teenager writing for the Fermanagh Herald at the age of 14 covering his local GAA team Lisnaskea Emmetts during his school years.
He continued doing that for the rest of his school years and at 16 started writing for a Steve Farhood at the international boxing magazine, ‘The Ring’
He had been confident enough to write to the editor telling him he could cover the UK boxing scene and it worked and continued for the following 20 years.
He studied at university in England and began his career in journalism on the Lancashire Evening Telegraph in Blackburn and after two years joined the Daily Express as the Midlands football reporter but also covered events like Wimbledon,The Open and other sports including, of course, boxing.
He joined the Sunday Times in 2003 after five years with the Express
writing mainly football and boxing, but covered a range of American sports including basketball, baseball, football as well as three Superbowls and also the four golf Majors.
In recent years he was worked for Aston Villa and Everton as head of media and communications and has now set up his own business, a media and production company with his brother Kevin.
The book is published on November 5 and available from Johh McBrien’s in Lisnaskea and more widely from Amazon, Waterstones, and W H

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