‘HOOKED on the JAB’ The B.J.Eastwood Story

March 30, 2010

Hooked on the Jab

‘HOOKED on the JAB’
The B.J.Eastwood Story

by Denis O’Hara

Book Launch in Belfast Europa Hotel on Wednesday, March 24, 2010.

TWENTY FIVE years ago the fabulously successful partnership of boxing manager B.J. ‘Barney’ Eastwood and his young featherweight sensation Barry McGuigan reached the summit by winning the WBA Championship belt. Eastwood, then a leading Northern Ireland bookmaker who previously dabbled in professional boxing promotions in Belfast during the 1960′s, masterminded the meteoric rise of McGuigan in a cleverly choreographed path that included studied matchmaking and the need to cosy up to and make deals with the rulers of World professional boxing. It proved a fascinating journey, one that sadly ended in heartbreak 24 years ago.

This carefully crafted and exclusive fly-on-the-wall authorised biography on the life and fascinating times of self-made Irish tycoon Eastwood is arguably the most revealing narrative ever on a special time in Irish professional boxing. For over half-a-century BJ was involved in the cut and thrust of bookmaking and property developing, yet became universally accepted as one of the world’s most astute boxing managers, especially his glorious gamble to guide County Monaghan’s McGuigan to global honours.

The charismatic ‘Clones Cyclone’ and Eastwood enjoyed universal acclaim, when McGuigan dethroned Panamanian legend Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road, London, in mid-summer 1985. Equally remembered is the ugly break-up of the partnership a year later, after McGuigan lost to Texan Steve Cruz in Las Vegas. The once-great pairing plunged to a sickening split, ending in closing High Court action in 1992.

Eastwood, the 1991 W.B.A. ‘Manager of the Year’ who steered six fighters to World title honours – including the colourfully unpredictable flyweight Dave ‘Boy’ McAuley, shied away from repeated media attempts to extensively probe his private life and innermost thoughts on the bitter row. Until now, that is. He insisted the very public bust-up might have been avoided – at least delayed, because he secured, in late 1985, the perfect progressive plan to make McGuigan a two-weight World champion.

Denis O’Hara, one of Ireland’s leading journalists who was involved in boxing since schooldays, charters Eastwood’s unwavering interest in boxing – from amateur action at school in Cookstown, County Tyrone, through a fight-promoter spell in Belfast’s Ulster Hall during the 1960′s; then into the McGuigan era, and ending after IBF World Flyweight king McAuley lost his crown to Colombian Rodolfo Blanco in 1992.

Throughout this absorbing account, one that includes a teenage BJ winning All-Ireland Minor Gaelic football honours with Tyrone, is the steady dignified presence of childhood sweetheart, the ever-supportive Frances Eastwood. Placing the angst, that rigidly remains in the Eastwood family following McGuigan’s shock decision to make a split, is a rare reflection from Mrs Eastwood that sums up the rift.

Seen at the book launch of Denis O’Hara’s ‘Hooked on the Jab.The B.J.Eastwood Story’ in the Europa Hotel are Glendun Publishing book editor Colin McAlpin, Irish News boxing writer Eamonn O’Hara and former boxing manager/promoter Barney Eastwood.
Pic supplied by John McIlwaine/Glendun Publishing

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