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Legacy award named for legendary South Side boxing coach

MartMcGarry (left) speaks Nov. 21 as he was being presented an award by William Kelly (right) president Ancient Order Hibernians

Martin McGarry (left) speaks Nov. 21 as he was being presented an award by William Kelly (right), president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Chicago Division 1. | Supplied photo

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Updated: January 27, 2014 6:03AM

Martin McGarry, the popular South Side boxing coach, recently was honored with the inaugural Martin McGarry Award for Service by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Chicago Division No. 1, one of the oldest Irish Catholic fraternal organizations in the United States.

The presentation was made at a benefit for Natasha McShane, the young Irish exchange student who was beaten in Chicago and is permanently disabled.

“Martin McGarry has touched so many lives,” said William J. Kelly, the president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Chicago Division No. 1. “He has guided so many — not only with his coaching but with his wisdom. We want to give him something back with a legacy award in his name.”

The award will be presented every year to someone else who serves the community in McGarry’s name.

“It’s just a pleasure for me to be here and it’s a great honor for me to be recognized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians,” McGarry said.

McGarry — who learned to box in Ireland — turned his garage into a boxing ring and training gym, where neighborhood kids came to learn the sport. He became an icon in the boxing community and owner of the popular McGarry’s Gym in Chicago’s Beverly community. He also sponsored boxing events as fundraisers at local schools.

A Golden Gloves champ himself, McGarry trained many other Golden Gloves champs, state champs and Olympian Montell Griffin.

He has been battling familial amyloidosis, a fatal and hereditary disease that claimed the lives of his mother and two brothers.

“I can’t say enough about your support and everybody’s support for my cause but it’s not about me,” McGarry said, as he thanked all those who have helped him over the years.

“I would like to continue to help everybody because I was blessed with some good talents in boxing, and coaching kids has been my forte down through the years. I will continue to do that and to help them establish a better life,” he said, adding that he hopes to stay healthy and continue to help kids.

McGarry said it is a big positive for young men to see others such as Griffin, the Olympian, working out in his gym.

“We’re going to be around for a long time,” he said.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is a nonprofit that raises funds for Irish and Catholic causes in the United States and Ireland.

Proceeds from the benefit went to McShane, who was with a girlfriend when they were beaten by a man with a baseball bat in a Bucktown robbery on April 23, 2010. The attack left her unable to talk or walk without assistance.

Donations also can be made online at

Kelly said in a news release that McShane needs the help of the Irish community in Chicago and elsewhere “more than ever now.”

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