Ingle, James John (‘Jimmy’) (1921–87), boxer, was born 21 July 1921, eldest among sixteen children of Charlie (‘Hoppy’) Ingle, dock labourer, and Sarah Ingle (née Lawless) of Penrose St., Ringsend, Dublin. Ingle was educated at Haddington Road school, and left at fourteen to work in a succession of jobs, including horse-minder, builder's labourer, sawyer, and CIÉ employee. He began boxing at the age of twelve with St Joseph's boxing club in Moss St. before joining St Andrew's Boxing Club in York St., where he came under the influence of Dave Stewart, his primary mentor and manager during his amateur and professional career.
His first junior fight occurred in October 1936, and in 1937 he won the Irish junior flyweight championship. By 1939 he had won the senior flyweight title and in his first amateur international bout he defeated the highly rated Scottish flyweight Johnny Shaughnessy on points. The highlight of his career occurred later that year: he became, at the age of seventeen, the first Irish boxer to win a European amateur boxing title when he defeated Germany's Nikki Obermauer in the new National Stadium in Dublin, which had been built specially to host the European championships. His victory was not without controversy, however. Pre-war tensions meant that many of the decisions in the championships seemed to have been based on the nationality of the boxer rather than what had happened in the ring, and the appeals board at the championships overturned a number of contentious and, indeed, outrageous decisions. One of those was the decision to award the semi-final bout between Ingle and the championship favourite Giovanni Nardeccia of Italy to the latter. On the night Ingle had given the Italian what was described by ‘Cam’ in the Irish Independent as a ‘boxing lesson’, hitting him with a constant barrage of close range left-handed punches, and the general consensus was that he had won handsomely. Pandemonium broke out in the arena when the fight was awarded to Nardeccia, and half an hour later the decision was reversed by the appeals board, on the grounds that the original decision was a ‘blatant contradiction to the course of the contest’ (Ir. Independent, 21 Apr. 1939). On the night of his victory the first Irish European champion did not have to wait long for the second, as Paddy Dowdall (qv) made it a double for Ireland by beating Anton Czortek of Poland to win the featherweight title.
According to Ingle's autobiography, while on an Irish amateur boxing tour to the US he turned down an offer from boxing legend Gene Tunney to become his manager, having already given a commitment to English boxing manager Ted Broadribb. He also refused a position with the Garda Síochána to train their amateur boxing team. The second world war disrupted his plans to turn professional with Broadribb, and he eventually went professional in Ireland in 1942. By this stage, however, he had difficulty making the weight in the flyweight division, and in his professional career he fought initially at welterweight and subsequently as a stocky middleweight who lacked height and reach. Most of his fights were in Ireland, and, although he fought many of the top boxers of the day, the highlights of his professional career were probably his bouts with Belfast's Tommy Armour, a devastating puncher who heavily defeated Ingle in their first meeting and won two of their three contests. In May 1947 he won the Irish professional middleweight title, beating John (‘Spike’) McCormack on points in a ten-round contest. He did not fight professionally outside Ireland until 1946.
Ingle was probably past his best by the time he got the opportunity to turn professional, and his glory days were his amateur ones. In 107 amateur bouts he was never stopped. Nonetheless, in sixty-three professional fights over eight years he won forty, lost twenty, and drew three, fighting mainly in Ireland and Britain. His main forte as a boxer lay in his speed and his footwork, coupled with an all-action boxing style. However, his lack of punching power militated against him in the professional game. A persistent eye injury, among other things, forced him to retire from the ring in 1950. He married (1947) Bridie O'Brien; they had six children. Ingle had continued to work as a sawyer and subsequently as a builder's labourer during his professional boxing career, and in the early 1950s he emigrated with his family to England, where he worked with Vauxhall Motors in Luton, Bedfordshire. A gregarious, courteous, and intelligent man, he was well-read despite his lack of formal education, and in 1984 he published his autobiography, The Jimmy Ingle story.
Boxing was very much in the Ingle family: one of his brothers, John Ingle (b. c.1922), was Irish professional lightweight champion in 1945, and became a boxing manager; another brother, Brendan (b. 1941), was also a professional middleweight but is best known for training and managing Sheffield boxer ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed to the WBO featherweight championship of the world in 1995 and the IBF title in 1997. Brendan Ingle was awarded an MBE in 1998 for his services to boxing and his work with young people. Jimmy Ingle was involved up to his death with the Luton amateur boxing club, which he helped to found in 1960. He died 5 September 1987, some seven months after his wife, after collapsing in the ring while coaching young boxers. He is buried in Luton.