Brian McCleary

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Name: Brian McCleary
Born: 1897-01-01
Birthplace: Dunedin, New Zealand
Hometown: Dunedin, New Zealand
Stance: Orthodox
Height: 5′ 9″   /   175cm
Boxing Record: click


Brian McCleary was one of a surprisingly large number of outstanding boxers who have combined the noble art with rugby.

In 1920-21 McCleary, who at 1.75m and around 83kg was built on the lines of a David Tua rather than the classical boxing physique of height coupled with reach, was the national amateur heavyweight champion. His beaten opponent in the 1921 final was the later celebrated All Black Maurice Brownlie. That obviously was no small feat for McCleary as Brownlie was at least three inches taller and a stone heavier.

McCleary then turned professional after an unbeaten amateur record of 32 bouts and won both the national heavyweight and light heavyweight titles before in 1923 being dethroned by Tom Heeney who later won fame as a challenger for the world title against Gene Tunney. Heeney was also a prominent rugby player and in 1921 had been in the combined Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay side which had played the touring Springboks.

McCleary appears to have been a better boxer than a footballer and his rugby achievements were sparse.

A hooker in the old 2-3-2 scrum, he made the Canterbury team from Christchurch's Marist club for two matches in 1920 and reappeared for five more games in the 1923-24 seasons, by which time he had moved to the Hurunui subunion.

In each of the 1923-24 seasons he was in the South Island side and after two trials in 1924 was chosen for the All Blacks' tour of Britain and France.

McCleary was said to be a hard and honest worker but was one of the lesser lights in the Invincibles. He played 12 matches for the All Blacks on the 1924-25 tour, but was used sparingly on the main section of the tour in Britain where he had only seven appearances. For the bulk of the matches, including the internationals, preference was given to Bull Irvine and Quentin Donald as the hooking combination.

McCleary finished with top rugby at the end of the tour. In all he played only 23 first class matches, of which slightly more than half were as an All Black.

His father Jim represented Wellington 1888 and Otago 1890-91.

Biography courtesy of Lee Skye of OOTP