Ex-boxer ‘Irish Pat’ Duncan passes away
November 11, 2004
The vital statistics for Larry “Irish Pat” Duncan read like this: Born on Dec. 24, 1948, in Vallejo, Calif., a resident of Carson City since 1953 … professional heavyweight boxer for more than a dozen years between the 1960s and early ’80s … passed away at his residence on Nov. 2, 2004.
That only scratches the surface of a man who stood among the greatest athletes to ever come out of Carson City – he was ranked No. 7 in the world at one point and was only one fight away from a bout against Muhammad Ali in 1974 – and was among the most popular as well.
“He was probably one of the greatest athletes from Carson City and very, very popular,” said Robey Willis, the current Carson City justice of the peace, who knew Duncan as a friend and as a boxing coach. “He was a super nice guy, a true gentleman who was always willing to help anyone out. I know he really helped us out with the Police Athletic League kids, and he used to help out guys like Mark Lee and Nicky Walker when they were on their way up.”
“I sure liked Irish Pat; he was a guy with a big heart,” said Bruce Glover, who went to school and played football with Duncan. “I enjoyed him about as much as anybody I ever knew.”
Duncan fought 58 times as a professional, credited with a 44-11-3 record, including 29 wins by knockout, according to BoxRec.com. Along the way he stepped into the ring against some of the top names of his era – Joe Bugner, Duane Bobick and Earnie Shavers, among others.
Duncan was a running back and defensive end for Carson High School during the mid-1960s as well as a star sprinter and discus thrower for the track and field program. But his true love was boxing, a sport he picked up in 1962 as a 13-year-old amateur under Mo Smith.
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“In high school, he was Larry, but when he started boxing, he took the name Irish Pat, which was his dad’s ring name,” said former classmate and track teammate Skip Thurman. “He was something else. Mo Smith used to have a stable here in town and he would have (amateur) fights at the old Civic Center, now the Children’s Museum. I remember inmates would come down from the state prison, and Larry would pound on those guys big-time, and he was probably a sophomore or junior in high school at the time.”
For a brief time, Glover was a sparring partner for Duncan in those days. For a brief time, mind you.
“I gave up boxing after a little while. I didn’t see much of a future in the sport sparring with him. He sure was good with those gloves,” Glover said.
Willis remembers those early professional outings in Carson City, when Duncan was breaking in under Carson City manager Ted Walker.
“He came out of the service in 1969, and I went out to watch him fight at T-Car (now Champion Speedway),” Willis said. “You could see he had a lot of potential. He was a tremendous athlete. He was more than just brute strength because he had a lot of quickness. I mean, here was a guy who was a track star in high school.”
Duncan made his pro debut on March 19, 1969, and took a five-round decision from Gary Bates in Las Vegas. He followed that up with three straight knockouts in Las Vegas before coming home to Carson City, where he outpointed Don Staab on July 25 and then KO’d Andy Nacosti on Aug. 22.
Duncan’s first shot at the big-time came in Reno on Sept. 28, 1971, when he faced Shavers, who later lost title bouts against Ali (1977) and Larry Holmes (1979). The first shot started out on an upbeat note, but didn’t turn out quite as well.
“He had Shavers beat six ways from Sunday,” Willis recalled. “Pat had a jab like a telephone pole, and he was working it to perfection. Then, somewhere around the fifth round, he came back to the corner and told Ted, ‘I’ve got him. Let me go finish him off,’ but Ted told him to keep working with the jab. Unfortunately, Pat didn’t listen. When the bell rang, he went across the ring to knock him out and got knocked out cold.”
Duncan rebounded from that setback and worked his way back into the position of getting another shot at the big-time, and this time, he fared better. On Jan. 15, 1974, Duncan went to London and scored a 10-round decision over Danny McAlinden at Royal Albert Hall. That victory gave him a bout against Bugner on March 12, 1974, in London in an elimination bout to determine an opponent for Ali.
“Pat beat McAlinden, who was the British Empire champion, then he went the distance with Bugner, who was a big, strong, slick guy himself,” Willis said. “Bugner beat him on points, but it was a good fight.”
Duncan won his last eight fights on record, including appearances at Sharkey’s Cow Pasture Boxing Festival in 1979 and 1980 and a first-round TKO of Columbus Lloyd in Carson City on April 4, 1981.
In addition to his boxing, Duncan worked as a security guard and bartender at the Ormsby House and Carson Station. He was preceded in death by his father and mother, Pat and LaVerne Duncan, and sister Midge Shinners. He is survived by his wife, Karen Duncan; a son, Patrick Duncan; stepdaughter Amy Robinson; and sister Patti Bova.
Services will be held on Sunday at 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Highway 50 and Saliman in Carson City, with a reception to follow at the church.
Contact Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 881-1220.