St. Patrick's Day, a traditional boxing date

Most of the fans were already inside La Scala Theatre when a bomb exploded on nearby Moore Lane, sending shards of glass from the hall's skylight raining down. It was March 17, 1923, and the Irish Civil War was raging in the streets of Dublin.

Machine gun and rifle fire, augmented by the ground-shaking thump of explosions, provided the soundtrack for a city under siege by its own people. Yet despite the carnage that was part of daily life, a boxing match between light heavyweight champion Battling Siki and challenger Mike McTigue was welcomed as a distraction from the hardships of war.

That Siki, a Frenchman from Senegal, lost the title by a questionable 20-round decision to an Irishman in Dublin on St. Patrick's Day has become a boxing metaphor for managerial absurdity. How could Siki and his manager, Charles Brouillet, even consider such a setup? The answer is simple: They needed the money.

A more recent example of the perils of fighting an Irishman in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day came in 1995, when Englishman Chris Eubank lost the super middleweight title he'd held since 1990 to Steve Collins. Eubank knocked down Collins in Round 10 but still lost a unanimous decision.

The luck of the Irish hadn't always been with the native son on St. Patrick's Day, however. Twelve years before Siki-McTigue, heavyweight champion Tommy Burns of Canada knocked out Irishman Jem Roche in just 88 seconds.

Over the decades, St. Patrick's Day boxing has become a tradition, especially in the United States, the home of millions of Irish-Americans. The fights don't necessarily have to be on March 17; anything close will do.

As a marketing tool, St. Patrick's Day is perfect. First, a hell of a lot of folks will be in a good mood, ready to party. A couple of pints of Guinness loosens the purse strings. Bars and restaurants do overflow business. Almost anything Kelly green with a shamrock plastered on it sells. Boxing is a natural.

Top Rank, which has promoted a number of St. Patrick's Day shows, will have its next one on Sunday, March 17, when featherweight Michael Conlan (10-0, 6 KOs) faces Mexico's Ruben Garcia Hernandez (24-3-2, 10 KOs) over 10 rounds at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"The Irish have always had an affinity for boxing," said Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank. "Michael Conlan is the pride of Ireland and New York City has a big Irish community. The city paints a green line down Fifth Avenue for the St. Patrick's Day parade."

Conlan, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, rose to fame when he raised his middle finger and his voice in protest of a highly questionable decision at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. When opponent Vladimir Nikitin's arm was raised the victory, an angry Conlan flipped the judges the bird and then, during a live television interview, accused the officials in amateur boxing of being corrupt.

Conlan's unabashed protest struck a chord with fans and fellow fighters. Boxing is so dangerous, when you take fairness out of the equations the sport becomes a travesty. Conlan tapped into the resentment all boxing lovers feel when there's a blatant rip-off, and it made him highly marketable.

Whatever he achieves from here on, Conlan will always be the Irish guy who flipped off the judges at the Olympics.

Sunday will be Conlan's third St. Patrick's Day fight, beginning in 2017, when he turned pro with a third-round TKO of Tim Ibarra. In 2018, Conlan stopped David Berna in the third round.


Conlan scores two knockdowns before TKO finish

Irish Olympian Michael Conlan knocks down David Berna in the first round with a body shot, and then sends Berna to the canvas in the second with a left to the head. Soon after the referee stops the fight, as Conlan improves to 6-0 as a pro.

There's also a nod to the "little people" of Irish lore on Top Rank's card. Belfast's Paddy "The Leprechaun" Barnes (5-1, 1 KO) is also on the show in a scheduled six-round flyweight bout against Oscar Mojica (11-5-1, 1 KO) of Dallas.

Philadelphia, another city with a large Irish-American population, has a St. Patrick's-flavored card at the Liacouras Center on Friday. It features lightweight titleholder Katie Taylor (12-0, 5 KOs), Ireland's biggest boxing star. She is fighting Brazil's Rose Volante (14-0, 8 KOs) in a 10-round unification match.

Taylor had the honor of being her country's flag bearer at the opening ceremony at the 2012 Olympics Games in London, and went on to win a gold medal in the lightweight division. Taylor's fast-paced, aggressive style has adapted well to the professional ranks.

Oddly enough, Taylor has yet to have a pro fight in Ireland.

At little over 300 miles northeast of Philadelphia, Murphys Boxing will have its fourth St. Patrick's Day boxing card on Saturday, at the House of Blues in Boston. Italian-American Mark DeLuca is fighting Jimmy Williams in the main event, but four Irish boxers are on the card.

Middleweight Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan (29-3, 20 KOs) takes on Khiary Gray (16-4, 12 KOs) in an eight-rounder. O'Sullivan is from Cork, while Gray hails from Worcester, Massachusetts. In an all-Irish welterweight bout scheduled for eight rounds, Cork welterweight Noel Murphy (12-1-1, 2 KOs) meets Lucan's John Joyce (7-0, 4 KOs). Gorey heavyweight Niall Kennedy (12-0-1, 8 KOs) is also on the show.

"Obviously, the Irish and Irish-Americans are big fight fans," said promoter Ken Casey, who also is the bass player and lead singer for Dropkick Murphys, a Celtic punk band that will play an acoustical set during the show.

"St. Patrick's Day is a day of celebration for the Irish. What better day to run a show? It gives people a reason to come out and have a good time and give the fighters a chance to fight in front of a big crowd."

I'm reasonably sure the old saying "On St. Patrick's Day, everybody is Irish" isn't true, but there's no doubt that the celebration gets around. You never know where it's going to pop up.

According to the Hamilton Food Share in Ontario, boxing is returning to the city "by popular demand."

Hamilton is hosting a St. Patrick's Day showdown on Saturday. It features local talent and former five-time Canadian heavyweight champion George Chuvalo will be there to support the cause. The proceeds will be donated to the city's Big Brothers Big Sisters and Hamilton Food Share.

Last year in Germany, the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria in Vilseck held a St. Patrick's Day Boxing Invitational. According to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, the show featured 12 bouts between soldiers from various bases in Germany.

"Fighting comes naturally to soldiers," one of the boxers said. "It's a primal thing."

So where did the Irish's pugnacious reputation and the Fighting Irish appellation come from? There is no definitive answer, but the late Irish writer Domhnall O'Huigin's theory makes sense.

"I don't think the Irish (ancient or modern) are especially bellicose, compared say to [random examples] the English or the Italians. In ancient Irish society, war and violent conflict was a fact of life, and yes, celebrated -- but no more so than in ancient Gaul or Russia or anywhere else," O'Huigin wrote.

"... I think what marked us out was that, in the ancient Celtic tradition, a certain brio was attached to making war. I use the phrase 'making war' -- as in 'making love' --advisedly; several historical commentators have noted the joie de mourir [joy of dying] the Celts brought to battle."

Irrespective of the reason, St. Patrick's Day has become a significant date on the boxing calendar, similar to Mexico's Cinco de Mayo. One honors the nation's patron saint, the other victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla. The link to boxing is more cultural than religious or military. It's a celebration of its people's indomitable spirit, a quality demanded of all fighting men and women.