Danny “Irish” McAloon spent many years as the groundskeeper of Ethical Culture Fieldston School, and lived in Riverdale all that time. But one thing they might not know about McAloon, who died earlier this month after a 12-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, was his past — as a professional boxer.
The 74-year-old passed away peacefully in Maine after spending his final years under the care of his son, Daniel McAloon Jr., at their family home in New Jersey.
McAloon’s career as a fighter and an educator is an interesting one, raising the Bronx native to popularity and frequent coverage in local newspapers like the New York Daily News. It even included seven matches at Madison Square Garden.
Way before guys like Floyd “Money” Mayweather were making $180 million for fighting Manny Pacquiao, boxing was — at least for those who had not achieved the god-like status of a Muhammad Ali or George Foreman — a part-time job.
And McAloon was no different. When he first started as a professional boxer in 1966, he had just graduated from Manhattan College, and was teaching at the Browning School in Manhattan.
He rose to popularity quickly often being called by tabloid sports sections “the fighting schoolteacher.” By 1971, McAloon boasted a record of 22 wins and just four losses when he fought former welterweight champion of the world Emile Griffith, known then for beating his opponent Benny Paret so badly in the ring, the Cuban fighter died in the hospital 10 days after that 1962 bout.
McAloon went the distance against Griffith, standing through all 10 rounds of the headline event at Madison Square Garden, ultimately losing by unanimous decision.
But the fighting schoolteacher wasn’t only a success in the ring. He went from teaching at the Browning School to the dean of discipline at I.S. 174 Eugene T. Maleska School in Soundview.
But by 1975, Daniel Jr., said his father was looking for a change of pace, something that would help him better support his wife Diana and three sons. So McAloon took a job as the groundskeeper at Fieldston, a position he held until he retired 30 years later in 2005.
“Working at Fieldston gave him some flexibility,” Daniel Jr., said. “He was able to take care of us, get our stuff ready, get off to work, and then right after work, it was straight to the gym.”
McAloon went on to win 29 fights, including six knockouts, and losing 15, before retiring in 1981. In that time, he fought five world champions, although he never competed for the title. He also brought boxing to his home borough twice — fighting both Dino Del Cid and Johnny Sears at Gaelic Park on the corner of West 240th Street and Corlear Avenue.
But it wasn’t until 2005 when McAloon started the hardest fight of his life.
After his wife died of breast cancer, McAloon started showing signs of dementia.
“He, obviously from all the boxing hits, got CTE, and he got dementia,” Daniel Jr., said. “It was classified as Alzheimer’s now, but basically that’s CTE that he was suffering from.”
Daniel Jr., and his brothers William and Scott, decided the best course of action was for their father to move in with Daniel, who then bought a house in New Jersey and made time to take care of his father.
“People always say it’s a great thing what I did taking care of him,” Daniel Jr., said. “I only did what he taught me. He was very loyal and took care of his family. He taught me how to do that.”
McAloon is survived by his three sons, two brothers Bill and Edward, and six grandchildren.