Hoge ‘n’ Smith Episode 9.5: Big Bang

In the absence of a standard episode of Hoge ‘n’ Smith this week, feast your ears upon Hoge’s recent documentary on Willie ‘Big Bang’ Casey. Not only are you getting this gratis and for free, the ever generous producer has also written an accompanying article for you to read just by clicking below, you lucky feckers! Feedback welcome to hogensmith@gmail.com.

Big Bang Documentary

Upon returning from Canada in October, there wasn’t much in the way of positivity to be found around Limerick City. As a mostly unsuccessful job seeker, I found myself avoiding news outlets, such was the onslaught of negativity regarding our plummeting local economy, our increasingly brazen local criminals and even our usually reliable but recently misfiring rugby team.

Many people in Limerick needed a hero. Scratch that, it’s too grandiose a description. People needed a distraction, not grandiose enough you might claim but a distraction, folks, can save lives. We all need someone or something that can – however briefly – distract us from the more “important” and yet depressing elements of life. Such reprieves are necessary for one to keep their sanity. They are also dependent, however, on a distraction that can sufficiently capture the imagination enough to dominate ones thoughts for a few blissful moments. In Willie Casey, Limerick found its distraction.

As a serial procrastinator, I was not nor have I ever been short of distractions. I was however low on morale and as an out-of-work journalist, I was in need of a project. Therein lies the genesis of ‘Hoge ‘n’ Smith’ and also the ‘Big Bang’ documentary which you are hopefully about to give a listen.

Prior to leaving Vancouver, I had heard talk of Willie Casey, that he was a decent local boxer and one of the Casey travelling clan. Not being the biggest boxing fan, I paid little heed to the talk surrounding him until I saw him make an appearance on the Saturday Night Show on my first weekend home.

To say he had bags of personality would be like saying Shane McGowan has a fondness for a tipple. Not only was he extremely likeable, the guy was funny but also fiercely proud of his background and his home. Without a hint of embarrassment, he said he had been born in a caravan and raised in a three-bedroom house with 22 brothers and sisters. But with a humility so bloody rare in boxers, he spoke of his respect for his opponent for the European title, his love of sports and indeed the sporting city from which he came.

If the talk show appearance got me interested, Willie’s fight with Hyland had me hooked. No-one could ever accuse him of having the most finesse in the world but Christ he could make a man suffer with a punch (or a “bang” as he calls them). His European title victory made up my mind, I wanted to make a radio documentary on Willie ‘Big Bang’ Casey. When news broke shortly afterwards that Casey would have a World Title Shot, my determination grew ten-fold.

Understandably, Willie’s management were initially a bit reluctant to allow me intermittent exclusive access to Irish boxing’s latest hot commodity at a time when they were trying to maximise his marketability. After convincing them that I was a fan and not someone looking to sniff out a scandal though, they relented and granted me a series of one-on-one interviews over the course of two or so months.

Although getting his handlers to come around was a bit of a task, the exact opposite was the case with the man himself. From the off, Willie was keen to take part in the project, especially when I told him it would give him a chance to talk about his earlier life in Southill and provide him with the opportunity to speak on the benefits of taking the right path in life.

At first, it was relatively easy to get a hold of Willie for a few minutes of a chat but as the day of his World Title fight with Guillermo Rigondeaux came closer and closer, the media scrum at press conferences got larger and time with the challenger became far more precious. Every time though, he would pick out myself and Liam Aherne (of Limerick’s Live 95FM) and make sure that we got a word with him.

I will never forget the moment at his final press conference before the day of the fight when he turned to a gaggle of journalists from national newspapers and radio stations to say; “Just give me a minute, I’ve to talk to these two boys (myself and Liam), they’re two of my own.”

By that stage, it didn’t even surprise me to see him be so considerate and down to earth. What you see is what you get with Willie. None of the stereotypical macho nonsense that normally comes with boxing’s big names for him, he just wants the opportunity to box and if he can steer a few young minds in the right direction in the process then he really feels like he is winning.

I was heartbroken for Willie, given the fashion of his short-lived bout with Rigondeaux in Dublin last month. It wasn’t a fitting end to his amazing journey but with the wind barely back in his lungs, he paid credit to his opponent and, ever mindful of what’s really important in life, spoke of looking forward to getting to spend time with his family now that his gruelling training sessions were over for a while. A class act to the end.

E-mails as usual to hogensmith@gmail.com, hopefully we’ll be back to you with a regular show in the coming weeks!

Adios,

Hoge.

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