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Michael Patrick Shiels
Michael Patrick Shiels

Fights in Washington Are Fun…And Can Be Productive

April 13, 2018

The lobbyists, members of congress, staffers, cabinet officials, and others who do business in the nation’s capital—including the president—know that a fair amount of fighting goes on in Washington D.C.  But unlike the typical clash of the governmental titans, fair fighting that wasn’t bare knuckles was on display at the recent “Belfast-Beltway Boxing Classic” 11th annual charity fundraiser. 

More than 1,000 well-dressed social scene business types turned up to the sold-out Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel’s giant ballroom to see nine young amateur boxers from the Baltimore and D.C. area fight three-round bouts against nine similar opponents from Northern Ireland. The ring was staged in the center of the ballroom so the moneyed attendees and donors could enjoy their champagne, chicken and cheesecake while watching the combatants crunch each other up close.  

The Beltways’ patriotic pugilists came into the room by procession carrying the Stars and Stripes while the Belfast boxers were behind both the Union Jack and the Tri-Color. After standing for the Star Spangled Banner any political problem was avoided by the singing of “Danny Boy” to represent all of Ireland, instead of factionalizing with “God Save the Queen” or “Soldiers Song.”

Each table had a centerpiece made of the flags of the United States, Great Britain and Ireland. 

It was obvious the fighters were very excited to box on such a grand stage in a big time atmosphere with an attentive, even boisterous crowd. A tuxedoed announcer called their names. “Ring girls” paraded with signs between each round. Ringside judges scored the fights, which were televised on local cable television and on big screens in the room. Cameras flashed away as the boxers were presented colorful championship belts after each bout, one of which pitted two females (American Nyah Smith vs. Kirsten Cresham of Castlebar) against each other in the “sweet science.” Weight-classes ranged from 116 to 165 lbs.

Padraig McCleary, of Ardoyne Holy Cross, had the most Irish name of the night, but all the members of each team fought with pride to win the “Fight of the Night Award” presented by the Embassy of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Tourist Bureau. 

Emmanuel Quinn, a bartender at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse on 15th Street near the White House, organizes what is really a glamorous international fundraiser.  “The Irish boxers come in and get to have an interesting and educational cultural experience,” he said. “They get to tour the Capitol Building, the White House, the Navy Yard at Annapolis, and they get to see a Washington National Major League Baseball game.”

The timing of the visit was fortuitous since it was during Washington’s short but famed spring cherry blossom window.  

Quinn said the boxers’ activities used to culminate with the exciting fight night at the end of the trip. “But we found out they were over-enjoying themselves and eating too much and in no shape to fight when the night came…so now they fight at the beginning of the visit.” 

The Irish boxers spent the entire week at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel which will celebrate its centennial next year. The landmark brick façade property in Woodley Park near Dupont Circle, has been host to many political meetings and important moments in American history. Hotel literature claims: 

“Presidents have celebrated here. Dignitaries have dined here. Scandals have unfolded here.” 

In fact the very first televised broadcast of NBC’s “Meet the Press” took place in the theater of the hotel’s Wardman Tower. General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife Mamie were longtime residents at the hotel. During the Second World War General Eisenhower made secret trips from the front to brief President Franklin Roosevelt at the White House and then sneak up the back stairs of the Wardman Tower to visit Mamie before going back to war. 

The Marriott Wardman Park is using a fashionable political word these days – “amnesty” – to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Recognizing that in a century of operation a prestigious property often has guests “liberate” mementos as a sentimental souvenir of their stay upon departure (hand towels, tea cups, tea spoons, etc.), now through the end of the year the hotel is accepting the “appropriated” memorabilia from guilty guests who wish—through the fun “amnesty program”—to return them in exchange for a chance to win a two-night weekend in the luxurious Langston Hughes Sweet and 50,000 Marriott Rewards points.  There will be a “no questions asked,” other than the hotel would love to hear the stories that go with the items. Was the item important because it was absconded at a wedding?  Honeymoon?  Political Function? Those with the best story win the weekend. The hotel will use the collected memorabilia to create a permanent display in the lobby.    

A train station next to the Marriott Wardman Park makes the trip from Reagan National Airport an easy one. Taxi to the airport is $16. A cab into the center of D.C. from the hotel costs about $12.  The Belfast-Beltway Boxing Project is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing support for at-risk youth through cultural exchange and international athletic competition and also aims to provide equipment donations to non-profit organizations that offer athletic and after-school programs for young people.

Michael Patrick Shiels hosts a capital-based, award-winning, syndicated morning radio program broadcast across Michigan. For a list of affiliate stations or podcasts see He may be contacted at

April 12, 2018 · Filed under Shiels



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