Bare-knuckle kings patch up feud in 30-year reunion

NewsBy Eamon Dillon
Joe Joyce and Dan Rooney
Joe Joyce and Dan Rooney

TWO former bare-knuckle fight­ers pose for the camera as they shake hands more than 30 years after their epic clash.

Dan Rooney, a notorious hard man in his younger days, fought Joe Joyce in a tough encounter staged in England in 1981.

However, the pair enjoyed a reunion recently at Joyce’s home outside Moate in Co. Westmeath.

During the clash Joyce broke his leg after a fall, but insisted on be­ing tied standing up so he could finish the fight.

Instead the fair-play men stepped in and ruled Rooney had won the fight. They never clashed again. In the years that followed the men couldn’t have followed more different paths, as Rooney became a born-again Christian preacher based in Coventry.

Joe Joyce in his fighting days

Joe ‘the Hulk’ Joyce continued fighting into his late 50s, while his son Joe junior is continuing the family tradition.

The Hulk’s grandson Joe Ward will be boxing for Ireland as a light-heavyweight in the Rio Olympics this summer.

Joyce previously recalled how the fight with Rooney went ahead in the U.K..

“We had about three or four pints. A man called ‘the Famous’ Paddy Cash showed us fair-play,” he said.

“There was over 60 Rooneys, Dorans and Cashs. I went in on my own and my brother-in-law. It was a fair fight, I wasn’t blackguarded or robbed.

“The two of us fought for 15 minutes, thump for thump, a toe-to-toe fight,” added Joyce.

“The next thing he hit me on the left-hand side and I fell and broke my leg in bits. I was in plaster for three months,” he said.

“If you get an injury in a fight, break an arm, break a leg, you lose that fight.”

Rooney’s reputation at the time was helped by the notorious reputation of his native Crossmaglen during The Troubles.

A relative of Rooney’s also made video tapes of his fights which were widely dis­tributed, adding further to his fame in the fighting underworld.