On February 22, 1912, Johnny became the World's Featherweight Champion by defeating Abe Attell.
Several groups in the Cleveland, Ohio area as well as groups in Ireland have planned activities to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Johnny winning the title. This page will be updated as frequently as possible as the various activities and programs have more detail. Current plans and events that have occurred include:
- A toast to Johnny! Great Lakes Brewing Company tapped a special tribute beer to honor Johnny and the first pour happened at 6pm on September 25th at Great Lakes Brewpub. It is called Fighting Heart Irish Red Ale. Part of the proceeds from the night benefited the Johnny Kilbane memorial. You can find all the details on the Great Lakes website under 'pub events' or click here. It is no longer on tap as it sold out in less than three weeks.
Premier of the original Kilbane vs Atell fight film was held at an event sponsored by the Cleveland Public Library on the evening of March 15, 2012 in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Music was provided by the Burning River Ceili Band including a performance of an original song 'A Fighting Heart' inspired by the poem written by Johnny. Mary Harney, former Minister from Ireland, was present and eloquently spoke about Johnny and his life. The event at the main branch also kicked off the opening of a wonderful exhibit put together by the Irish American Archives Society featuring Johnny that will travel to libraries throughout the Cleveland region.
- Unveiling of a commemorative plaque in the Gordon Square district designating the house Johnny lived in when he returned to Cleveland after winning the title in 1912 as a historic landmark. A reception followed at Stone Mad Pub. Event was held March 16, 2012 in Cleveland. Also, several street banners in the area were unveiled and the streets were renamed in Johnny's honor as Kilbane Town. Pictures and videos are available here.
- Plans are underway to honor Johnny with a statue or monument in the Cleveland area. As more information is available, it will be posted here. Please check back.
- Listen to Erin and Kevin talk about their great grandfather Johnny on Gerry Quinn's Irish Radio AM 1420 Sunday morning February 12, 2012 from 10am to noon. Note: check out the archives at www.quinnirishradio.com for a recap.
- A documentary celebrating the life and legacy of Johnny Kilbane. The title of the project is A Fighting Heart. The documentary was produced by Des Kilbane of Galway, Ireland. It was accepted for inclusion in the 2013 Cleveland Film Festival and made it's world premier on Sunday April 7. It was a huge success and enjoyed positive reviews from critics including John Petkovic of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. An Irish language version is being finalized and will be shown throughout Ireland in the coming year. The documentary has been submitted to many festivals throughout the world and is expected to be screened at several including the Chagrin Film Festival in October.
- On Sunday afternoon April 22, 2012 Kevin presented a small program to the West Side Irish American Club about Johnny. Included was a showing of rare archival film footage from Kilbane's 1912 championship fight.
- Congressional record honoring Johnny was presented to Johnny's great grandchildren by U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich Friday night February 17, 2012 at the West Side Irish American Club. The program included a talk by Jim Carney Jr., and bagpipes played wonderfully by Mike Crawley. For a picture of the Congressional Record, check the pictures and memorabilia page.
- Weekend of activities to celebrate Johnny's Irish heritage June 7-10, 2012 in and around Achill, Ireland. Activities included unveiling of a statue near Patton's Pub, unveiling of a monument on AchillBeg, a boxing tournament presented by the Geesala Boxing Club at Ostan Oilean Acla and a Kilbane family gathering. Please visit http://www.achilltourism.com/johnnykilbane.html for more information.
- The 2012 version of the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Cleveland was dedicated to Johnny. The weather was sunny and warm and as always it was a great day to be Irish.
- In honor of her great-grandfather's extensive public service, Erin O'Toole decided to follow in the footsteps of Johnny Kilbane and seek election as a Judge for the Cuyahoga Court of Appeals in the March 6th democratic primary.
Click on the play button on the left (just above this text) to hear Kevin's interview with Ireland's most popular sports radio show "Off the Ball" on Newstalk 106-108 FM. It was recorded in March 2012. Click on the play button on the right to hear Kevin and Helen Applegarth (Achill Tourism Manager) interviewed by Sean Moncrieff. Sean hosts a nationally syndicated show on Newstalk radio. It was recorded live from the Knockranny House Hotel in Westport, Ireland on June 8, 2012.