Larry Foley

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Larry Foley

Laurence 'Larry' Foley (12 December 1849 – 12 July 1917) was an undefeated champion Australian middleweight boxer. He is known as the 'Father of Australian Boxing' and it is often said that the English idiom "happy as Larry" is a reference to him.[1]

Early life[edit]

Foley was born to a schoolmaster, Patrick, and his wife Mary (née Downs) in Bathurst, New South Wales on 12 December 1849. He was baptised a few years later on 2 May 1852 in Penrith. Aged 14 he moved to Wollongong as servant to a Roman Catholic priest with the expectation that he would join the priesthood. This never happened and instead, he moved to Sydney where he worked as a building labourer. There he joined a street-fighting gang, often fighting members of a rival Protestant group.[2] He was crowned 'King of the Push' after the Rocks Push street gang in Sydney.[3] On 17 September 1873 he married Mary Anne Hayes.


Foley abandoned street fighting and moved into prizefights and exhibitions, winning or drawing all of them, including an exhibition fight in 1877 with gloves with ex-world champion Jem Mace. On 20 March 1879, he fought Abe Hicken bare-knuckle for the Australian championship. He won in 16 rounds and received $600. Back home in Sydney a concert and subscription fund were organised for him.[2] He retired aged 32.[1]


Foley died of heart disease on 12 July 1917, survived by a son and two daughters from his first marriage and three sons and two daughters from his second, to another Mary (née Hoins).


  1. ^ a b "As happy as Larry". Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  2. ^ a b Horton 1972.
  3. ^ "Laurence 'Larry' Foley". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 19 August 2013.

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