LES DARCY ‘Maitland’s Wonder Boy’

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Born in Woodville (Stradbroke) NSW on October 31st 1895, the son of Irish settlers was born to fight. Les started amateur boxing at age 15, while working for a local blacksmith in East Maitland. He became one of Australia’s greatest fighters of last century.

In 1916, Les knew he would be conscripted of War service and there was no way out. Irish families refused to send their sons to fight a war for an English King. All Les wanted was to fight to support his family. It was under the cover of darkness, Les stowed away on a boat bound for America.

 

The Australian authorities made sure that he would never be able to fight in the US because of his actions, and they were true to their word, making an example of him. Although to beat this, Les Darcy took out US citizenship papers in New York and enlisted in the US Army to prove he was not running from War.

 

His one wish was to have 5 fights before joining the US Aviation Corps to send money back to Australia for his parents. A boxing match was arranged in Milwaukee, however Darcy fell ill and was hospitalized in Memphis, Tennessee where he died at the age of 21 on May 24th 1917.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, anger was heating up – the word had spread throughout the country that Les Darcy was poisoned by the Yanks, even in a poem by ‘Percy the Poet’ wrote the line ‘He lost all hope, when they gave him the dope, way down in Tennessee’. Australia was sore on the Americans for the loss of their Golden Boy. In fact it seemed to be an infected tooth which poisoned his blood stream.

 

It was the same with Phar-Lap some years later – when they shipped Australia’s greatest race horse to the US to race, and in April 1932, someone a fed the famous thoroughbred arsenic. Phar-Lap was near twice successful as America’s horse racing legend ‘Seabiscuit’ which is only a comparison.

 

Darcy’s body was brought back to Australia where in Sydney, it was estimated that quarter of million people lined the route of the funeral possession.

 

Les Darcy won 46 of his 50 fights, 29 of those were by K.O.

In 1987 ‘The Les Darcy Story’ was filmed to the tune of $6million, directed by Kevin Dobson, starring Peter Phelps who played young Les. The story follows the famous boxer until his tragic end.

When his body finally arrived in East Maitland more then six thousand people filed through the church. He was laid to rest at East Maitland Catholic Cemetery.

 

 


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