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
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
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
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.