Article by St. Catharines Standard | Published on October 3, 2020


When the casting call went on for extras for the 2005 boxing movie “The Cinderella Man,” Keith Murphy went to Toronto dressed for the day.

As luck — specifically, the luck of the Irish — would have it on that St. Patrick’s Day, he came dressed for the part as well.

Joe Corrigan, the club’s head coach, accompanied his longtime colleague to audition for bit parts in the biopic starring Russel Crowe as Irish-American heavyweight James J. Braddock. He recalled “everybody in the boxing community” in Ontario answered the casting call.

“It was funny on the day that he went it was St. Paddy’s Day. He was sitting across from (director) Ron Howard and something was said about ‘being Irish’ or something,” Corrigan said. “Keith pointed to his shirt and said, ‘You know, you wish you were Irish.’ He got the part.

“He had the luck of the Irish, that’s for sure.”

Murphy, who lost a 31-year fight with multiple sclerosis at age 61 on Thursday, also had a cameo role in “Resurrecting the Champ,” a boxing-themed movie starring Samuel L. Jackson.

“For the longest time, I was calling him ‘Hollywood Murphy,’” Corrigan said with a chuckle.

Reaction to good-natured jabs from his friend depended on Murphy’s mood at the time.

“Sometimes, he was OK with it; sometimes, he wasn’t. But it was all in good fun.”

The St. Catharines Sports Wall of Fame inductee’s name became synonymous with the club over more than three decades of coaching. Five years ago Murphy’s Gloves Youth Program was established in his honour.

“He loved the kids. He just loved working with the kids.”

Corrigan met Murphy when they started sparring and training together at the club, then on North Street.

“He was more of a brawler. He had good power, but he was like a brawler. Southpaw.”

Murphy, a former employee of Hayes-Dana Inc. in St. Catharines, was more successful as a coach in a fighter’s corner than he ever was as a fighter in the boxing ring.

“He was a‘good fighter, he was an outstanding coach,” Corrigan said.

As a coach, Murphy was willing to work with anyone willing to put in the time.

“It didn’t matter who came to the gym. If they wanted to box, it didn’t matter if they were 11 years old or if they were 30 years old,” Corrigan said. “If they put the time in and wanted to train and he saw that they were serious, it didn’t matter male, female. It didn’t matter, he would work with him.”

Murphy, who continued to coach even after he was confined to a wheelchair, was good on hand pads and motivating students.

“He would put the time in. That’s the big thing,” Corrigan said. “You can have coaches, but they’re not putting the time in.

“He would put the time in with the kids.”

The level of Murphy’s interest wasn’t limited to the student’s potential. Corrigan said it didn’t matter whether a boxer had much of an upside, if any, to fight competitively.

“If they showed they were dedicated, he would dedicate time to them.”

While the Boxing Ontario Ring of Fame inductee, Class of 2010, accepted all students who were willing to put in the work with open arms, he didn’t pull any punches when it came to sharing his opinion when he found their work ethic lacking.

“He’d tell you the way it was, even if you didn’t want to hear it. Like I posted on Facebook, he was a no BS guy,” Corrigan recalled with a chuckle. “He would tell you the way it is.

“If he didn’t think you were training hard enough, he would tell you. He would say, ‘Man, you gotta be doing more.’ He would just tell you the way it is.”

Murphy stopped coaching when multiple sclerosis confined him to his home.

“He was pretty much confined to the house, so it’s been about two, three years maybe.”

Corrigan was asked whether Murphy ever let the disabling disease get to him.

“I don’t think so. I can’t honestly say, but I just know that he always loved coming to the club. We would take him places, like to tournaments, stuff like that. He really enjoyed that.”

Over the years, Murphy was taken to Ireland, Scotland, Las Vegas, the New York State Fair in Syracuse, as well as across Canada.

“If B.C. was holding nationals, we would take him there. Everybody knew him, everybody respected him.”

The beloved boxing coach was a fighter until the end. His family and friends were told to brace themselves for the inevitable when he came home from hospital the final time in early September. Murphy held on until Thursday.

“We were told that he didn’t have much time left. He was taken home from the hospital and they said he was going to pass away that night, that was like three Saturdays ago,” Corrigan said. “He just kept fighting it, hanging on. Him being a fighter, he kept hanging on and hanging on.”

Murphy became more than a sparring partner and coaching colleague to Corrigan. Over the years the two became close friends.

“He was like a brother.”

The thing Corrigan will miss most about Murphy is his friendship and commitment to young boxers.

“We went all across Canada. Took kids places that they might not have gone to,” Corrigan said. “I will miss his friendship.”

Original article available here.