Chicago boxing character Johnny Lira

Today, we look back at Johnny Lira: boxer, “man about town… suave, debonair, and character extraordinaire.”

In 1993, Doug Sawyer and Ben Joravsky interviewed Lira at the gym at Fuller Park at 45th and Princeton for our show Chicago Slices.

He died Saturday at the age of 61.

Make sure to read the fascinating recollections of Bruce Elliott, co-owner of the Old Town Ale House.

They don’t make guys like Johnny Lira anymore…

Check out the full hour with Lira.

 

2 Comments

  1. Tom Weinberg says:

    John Schulian was the first guy to bring Johnny Lira into my life. Here’s what the marvelous (then young) sportswriter (esp. boxing) wrote in his book,”Writers Fighters and other Sweet Scientists, 1983, John Schulian ; foreword by Studs Terkel:

    “Like when I broke my jaw against Ernesto España. I’d broken it before, so I knew when I couldn’t talk right and it was going click-click-click, it was fucked up again. But you know what I was upset about? Yeah, yeah, I didn’t like losing. I had España down for a seven-count; three more seconds and I would have been champion of the world. But what I was really disappointed about was, I wasn’t going to be able to eat. Damn, after sacrificing my ass off, my jaw was going to be wired up and I wasn’t going to be able to eat any spaghetti or steak or anything like that. On the way to the hospital, though, you know what I made ‘em do? I made ‘em stop so I could get a banana split.”
    Johnny Lira to John Schulian, 1985

    If you know how to find Schulian theses days (I assume in LALA), tell him about this and to get in touch. Also, that there’s hours of him on Time Out on mediaburn.org and he was terrific.

  2. Tony Cisneros says:

    You Might Not Believe This, But It Doesn’t Matter If You Believe It Or Not, IT’S TRUE & IT REALLY HAPPENED:

    I Was A Candidate For The U.S. CONGRESS (4th-IL-Republican) At The Time (2004) When I Was At A Dive Bar Called RICHARD’S In Chicago.

    I Personally DON’T DRINK BOOZE, But I Was CAMPAIGNING & SOLICITING SUPPORT FOR MY RUN FOR THE U.S. CONGRESS.

    Anyway, As I Was Talking To A Guy Named “Howdy”, Asking For His Support; JOHNNY LIRA Was Drinking A Glass Of Wine At The Northwest Corner Of The Bar–And LIRA Looked Really LOADED.

    Then, Without Provocation, LIRA Gets Up And Walks Toward Me & “Howdy”–And Without ANY NOTICE WHATSOEVER LIRA “SIDE-SWIPES” Me.

    What LIRA Didn’t Know Was That My DAD Taught Me To BOX AT THE VERY YOUNG AGE OF 2 & 1/2 !

    WHAT HAPPENED NEXT WILL KNOCK YOU OFF OF YOUR SOCKS !

    I TURNED TO JOHNNY LIRA, WHO JUST PUNCHED ME ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF MY JAW, AND PUNCHED HIM SQUARE IN THE FACE !

    AS JOHNNY TEETERED & TOTTERED TOWARD THE REAR DOOR OF RICHARDS (THE ONE THAT OPENS INTO MILWAUKEE AVE.), I SAID “COME ON AND STEP OUTSIDE IF YOU GOT THE BALLS YOU !@#$%&*()” ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

    JOHNNY MUST HAVE REALLY SOBERED-UP; BECAUSE ABOUT FIVE GUYS HAD TO RESTRAIN HIM & COME BETWEEN LIRA & I.

    SUFFICE TO SAY I LEFT THE BAR SAYING (REALLY YELLING) TO JOHNNY LIRA “COME ON & STEP OUTSIDE YOU !@#$%^&*()–I’LL SEE YOU OUTSIDE YOU !@#$%^&*()” !

    Johnny Lira Apologized About A Month Later.

    That’s How Much Class Johnny Lira Had.

    He Knew When He Was Wrong–And Wasn’t Ashamed To Admit It.

    NOT LIKE A BUNCH OF IDIOTS & DRUNKS WHO THINK THEY HAVE THE BALLS THE SIZE OF BASKETBALLS WHEN THEY GET DRUNK WITH BOOZE &-OR LIQUOR !

    Truthfully, Honestly, Sincerely Yours & Faithfully Recorded,

    Tony Cisneros
    2002/2004 Candidate For Congress,
    U.S. House Of Representatives,
    4th Congressional District,
    State Of Illinois.
    Republican.

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