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'Chapman’s fist broke two of Mannion’s ribs and left him with a 60% collapsed lung'

Check out this extract from ‘The Man Who Was Never Knocked Down’.

Sean Mannion was a Galway-born boxer who competed between 1978 and 1993.
Sean Mannion was a Galway-born boxer who competed between 1978 and 1993.

THE FOLLOWING PASSAGE is an extract from ‘The Man Who Was Never Knocked Down: The Life of Boxer Seán Mannion’ by Rónán Mac Con Iomaire.

Seán was ready. The fight against Danny Chapman was his first fight in Massachusetts in almost a year and a large group of his supporters, including his mother and six of his siblings, had made the trip down from Boston to the Cape.

The fight started as expected, Mannion with the upper hand, Chapman with the hands up, defending himself. Conscious of the dangers of over-committing so close to a potential world title shot, Mannion kept prodding away while staying out of trouble.

But as the fight went on, Chapman started to advance. Suddenly, in the tenth round, Danny Chapman caught Seán with a punch to the ribs. Bang. The legs almost buckled under Mannion. Thunderhand had just struck.

vX-GQe_g Mannion defeating Roosevelt Green.

Chapman’s fist broke two of Mannion’s ribs and left him with a 60% collapsed lung.

“I’d never been in pain like that in the ring before,” Seán said.

Mannion was in trouble. He couldn’t breathe. He dropped his left arm to protect the ribs and lung, leaving the rest of his body open to attack. Chapman kept up the attack and Mannion could barely stand, let alone fend him off.

The dream was as good as over. His shot at the world title blown away by a stray punch from a New York boxer no one had ever heard of. In the audience, fearing for her son, tears rolled down Teresa Mannion’s cheeks.

That’s when the Cape Cod Coliseum dropped into darkness.

“Whoa, the lights have gone out, folks,” said the ESPN’s Al Bernstein. “Well fans, in the tenth round somebody pulled the plug.”

Across America, fight fans stared at a black screen. The referee steered the boxers to their corners, Seán stumbling back, still barely able to draw a breath. The doctor came to his corner, fixing him up temporarily with a painkiller. After 20 minutes of darkness and recuperation for Mannion, the lights came back on.

What was behind “The Night The Lights Went Out” as renowned boxing writer, George Kimball, called it? After the fight, the rumour started that Paddy Mannion had turned off the lights in order to save his brother.

“It wasn’t Paddy,” said Peter Kerr. “He was beside me all night in the corner.”

training-in-miami-with-world-heavyweight-champion-pinklon-thomas-and-angelo-dundee Mannion pictured during training in Miami with World Heavyweight champion Pinklon Thomas and Angelo Dundee.

George Kimball wrote that it was Mannion’s Irish fans that cut the power in order to give their hero an opportunity to recover.

“Definitely not,” insisted Seán. “I used to spar regularly down at the Cape Cod Coliseum and I didn’t know where the plug was, let alone the guys who had just arrived down for the night.”

Mannion himself was of the view that lightning saved him from Thunderhand Chapman.

“There was definitely thunder in the air that night,” he said.

ESPN’s Al Bernstein disputed this theory in his memoir, Al Bernstein: 30 Years, 30 Undeniable Truths About Boxing, Sports, and TV.

“Chapman’s manager/trainer Bob Miller smelled a rat. The timing of the blackout was, well, let’s say too perfect. The conflicting answer about the blackout suggested that it might have been caused by ingenuity, not electrical failure. Wouldn’t you know, we found out days later that there was no power outage reported in that area that night, so somehow the lights had gone out only in the arena. Curious.”

Seán’s lawyer, Tony Cardinale, had the closest thing to a plausible explanation. Cardinale had spent the night sitting beside Vince McMahon Jr., the owner of the Cape Cod Coliseum.

“Vince and I were sitting there and Seán was winning the fight early on,” said Cardinale.

“All of a sudden, this kid hits Seán a body punch from a very weird angle and from where we were sitting, it looked like he broke a rib or pinched a lung because all of a sudden, Seán couldn’t breathe. It really looked bad.”

Cardinale knew that if the referee stopped the fight that Seán’s shot at the world title would vanish.

“I’m watching what’s going on and it’s getting scary. I’m afraid that the referee might jump in and stop the fight because he can’t breathe when all of a sudden, the lights go out. I look to my right and Vince wasn’t there. I’m not saying anything happened but he wasn’t there anymore!

“When the lights came back, Vince came walking back over and resumed his seat. The fight restarted and Seán got through.”

Despite the pain, Seán continued to box after the lights came back on and was awarded a split decision win by the judges. Some of the audience, convinced of a Chapman win, received the decision by whistling and throwing cups of beer into the ring.

Mannion didn’t agree with any perception of injustice.

“I won it, if just about.”

The Man Who Was Never Knocked Down: The Life of Boxer Seán Mannion’ by Rónán Mac Con Iomaire is published by Rowman and Littlefield. More info here.

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