Benefit set for ailing boxing legend Martin McGarry
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com November 30, 2012 5:42PM
In this 2007 photo, Martin McGarry instructs Deonte Johnson on a punching bag at St. Margaret of Scotland School in Chicago. McGarry, owner of McGarry’s Gym in Chicago’s Beverly community, is battling Familial Amyloidosis. | File photo
When: 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: 115 Bourbon Street, 3359
W. 115th St., Merrionette Park
Cost: $35 minimum donation includes beer, wine, pop, buffet dinner, entertainment, raffles for an Apple iPad, 40-inch TV, yacht excursion for four, and more.
Silent auction items: Autographed Michael Jordan basketball, a Blackhawks hockey stick signed by the 2011-12 team, tickets for Blackhawks, Cubs and Sox games and more.
Donations: Can be made at Archer Bank, 3435 W. 111th St., Chicago
Updated: January 3, 2013 6:26AM
For decades, Martin McGarry has been the one to teach kids how to fight, to train young boxers and groom them to be champions in the ring and in life.
Now, this 61-year-old icon in the boxing community and owner of the popular McGarry’s Gym in Beverly is in a fight for his life, as he takes on a rare and fatal hereditary disease that claimed his mother and two brothers.
“He was very good to the kids, good to everyone,” said his longtime friend John Coyle, who has organized a fundraiser for McGarry on Sunday.
The retired pipefitter and father of four, who hails from Belmullet, Co. Mayo, Ireland, was diagnosed in February with Familial Amyloidosis.
“He has always helped people out,” Coyle said. “He’s a very good man, great integrity and a great sense of humor.”
With Familial Amyloidosis, the liver produces misfolded proteins that begin to attack other organs, resulting in sensory loss, deterioration of the heart, pain and weakness in lower limbs, gastrointestinal issues and weight loss.
“It’s a terrible disease,” Coyle said. “You just fade away.”
In an effort to stop the progression of the disease, McGarry will travel to Germany for a new drug, approved in Europe but not in the United States, and not covered by insurance, his oldest daughter Theresa Lakawitch said. The drug has been successful in slowing the progression of the disease, but there is no cure, she said.
“He’s a fighter. He’s not giving up. He has a very positive attitude,” Lakawitch said.
Her two uncles had liver transplants, but died a couple of years later, she said.
“My dad does not want to go through that. A transplant is not a cure,” she said.
McGarry — who learned to box in Ireland — turned his garage into a boxing ring and training gym, his daughter said, where “half the neighborhood” came to train. He also sponsored boxing events as fundraisers at local schools. Kids still drop by to train, but her dad is no longer coaching or fighting.
A Golden Gloves champ himself, McGarry trained many other Golden Gloves champs, state champs and Olympian Montell Griffin.
This “fun-loving guy with a contagious uplifting spirit” kept kids in shape and out of trouble, she said.
“He was very good at giving and now he’s on the receiving end,” Lakawitch said.