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The Great Irish Hope? 

How amateur boxing matches -- and a bunch of mostly black and Latino fighters -- are resurrecting Irish culture in the Sunset

Wednesday, Nov 13 2002

Page 6 of 6

Mullen comes out hooking, his legs splayed, his punches wild. But if his style is unorthodox, it's also relentless, and soon, much to the chagrin of the catcalling crowd, the referee stops the fight to give Mullen's opponent a standing eight-count. Maguire, now a coach as well as an organizer, claps enthusiastically from his friend's corner. In the second round, Mullen takes some heavy punches, and at one point, when the referee steps in to break up the fighting, Mullen almost falls down while backing away. The official warns Mullen not to lead with his shoulder, which brings scorn from the audience. "Don't hit him, whatever you do," shouts one old coot. "We wouldn't want any fighting around here!"

By the start of the third round, an exhausted Mullen has let his guard down. His hands droop, his arms too weak to muster more than a tap against his opponent's face, and his legs splay like a stick figure's. Fortunately, the other guy is in much worse shape; when the final bell rings, the two fighters all but collapse against each other.

"And the winner ...," intones Tony Hall, a hand on each fighter's arm, "from the San Francisco Police Athletic Club ..."

The crowd explodes as one.

"Patrick Mullen!"

His white shorts are speckled with blood, his freckled face is flushed red, but Patrick Mullen has done the Sunset District proud, providing a perfect capper for the evening and winning the "Fighter of the Night" trophy. It's a long five minutes before he can extricate himself from the family members and neighborhood friends who swarm him near the weigh-in station. Maguire stands nearby, deflecting offers for drinks, and someone tells Maxwell, "You could sell out 1,000 seats at $40 a head, and do it every month." But Maxwell shakes his head, calm amid the chaos. "If it leaves here," he says, "it loses the magic."

Mullen, too, is getting some career advice. As he poses for pictures, still wiping away blood from his nose, he dismisses his admirers' suggestions that he take a stab at the Golden Gloves tournament. "I'm just a working man," Mullen wheezes, his hands still taped as he waves to the crowd. "It's for the people out here that I do this."

About The Author

Matt Palmquist


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