Brian Verdon McCleary
Full name Brian Verdon McCleary
Date of birth (1897-01-17)17 January 1897
Place of birth Dunedin, New Zealand
Date of death July 2, 1978(1978-07-02) (aged 81)
Place of death Martinborough, New Zealand
Height 1.75 m (Bad rounding hereScript error in)
Weight 83 kg (Bad rounding hereScript error lb)
School Christian Brothers School
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Hooker, Loose forward
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1920, 23 Canterbury
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1924-25 New Zealand 0 (0)

Brian Verdon McCleary (17 January 1897 — 2 July 1978) was a New Zealand rugby player. He was a member of the All Blacks in 1924 and 1925, playing in the Hooker position. He was also a New Zealand and Australasian amateur and professional light-heavyweight and heavyweight boxing champion.[1]

Early lifeEdit

McCleary was born in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand and was educated at Christian Brothers School where he played rugby.[2]

Rugby careerEdit

McCleary played for the Marist club and then the Culverden club and represented Canterbury in 1920 and 1923. He represented the South Island in 1923 and 1924 and was a New Zealand trialist in 1924.[1] He was selected for the All Blacks in 1923 and 1925. He played in Australia and at home for New Zealand before the Invincibles tour, on which he played in nine games. In all he played twelve games for the All Blacks.[2] All his matches for New Zealand were against regional or representative clubs never playing at international level.[3]

Boxing careerEdit

McCleary began his boxing career as an orthodox heavyweight. After an unbeaten amateur record of 32 fights he turned professional.[4]

On 15 April 1922, McCleary challenged Cyril Whittaker for the vacant New Zealand heavyweight title at King Edward's Barracks in Christchurch. The contest went the full fifteen rounds with McCleary winning by points decision, making him the heavyweight champion. He successfully defended his title in May 1922 against Albert Pooley, while a June challenge from Paul McQuarie ended in a no contest. On 9 September 1922, McCleary faced Cyril Whittaker again, when both men dropped a weight to contest the vacant light-heavyweight title. McCleary beat Whittaker again on points, giving him his second New Zealand boxing champion title. He successfully defended his title in May 1923, stopping Laurie Cadman by technical knockout in the seventh round; but lost his title a month later when he lost by points to Eddie Parker.

14 August 1923 saw McCleary face his most notable opponent, Tom Heeney, in a challenge for his heavyweight title. McCleary was beaten by technical knockout in the fourteenth round, losing his title to Heeney who would go on to challenge NBA World heavyweight champion Gene Tunney in New York. McCleary challenged for the New Zealand light-heavyweight belt again in 1924, but lost by decision, again to Eddie Parker.


He died 2 July 1978, aged 81, in Martinborough, New Zealand.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ron Polanski, The All Blackography, Hodder Moa, 2007, p. 287.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lindsay Knight, Brian McCleary, New Zealand All Blacks Player Profiles, Match Details and Statistics
  3. 3.0 3.1 New Zealand All Blacks Player Profile
  4. Brian McCleary: Biography


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