Northern Ireland

Statues plan for Belfast's boxing greats

Rinty Monaghan
Image caption Rinty Monaghan sang to spectators after winning matches

Statues to celebrate some of Belfast's boxing greats are being planned by the Belfast Boxing Ring.

Established in 2010, the Belfast Boxing Ring aims to highlight the history of boxing in the city.

The group is taking its plans to Belfast City Council in a bid to get planning permission and funding for the statues.

It hopes to immortalise Rinty Monaghan at Cathedral Gardens and John Caldwell at Dunville Park.

"Belfast has a long and proud association with the sport of boxing," said a spokesperson for the group.

"The city can boast a long line of amateur and professional champions who have placed the name of Belfast on the international map and represented their city with skill and pride.

"The sport of boxing has consistently proved to be a unifying force that has time and time again crossed the physical and sectarian boundaries of the city and provided a valuable outlet for young people from all areas of the city."

The first batch of any funding would be used to erect the statue to John Joseph "Rinty" Monaghan.

Born in 1918, Monaghan became the undisputed world flyweight champion after defeating Scottish fighter Jackie Paterson in March 1948.

He was the first boxer from Belfast to win a world title.

When he retired from the sport in 1950, he had fought 66 times - winning 51, drawing six and losing just nine.

Monaghan was as famous for his vocal chords as he was for his biceps, singing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling at the end of matches.

Born close to the Cathedral Gardens site, Belfast Boxing Ring said a statue of Monaghan would be both a "focal point and a tourist attraction".

2014 marks the 30th anniversary of his death and the group hope a statue could be unveiled at that time.

It is estimated that the statue could cost up to £60,000, but the group said they would work in conjunction with the council to minimise costs.

In addition to public funding it said it would undertake a programme of fundraising, as well as seeking substantial patronage from a number of people linked to boxing.

Cross community

Alex Maskey, chair of the Belfast Boxing Ring, said boxing had made a "huge and positive contribution" to Belfast for generations.

"Twelve of the 23 Olympic medal winners representing Ireland have been boxers, seven of who have been from the city of Belfast," he said.

"In Belfast boxing has been synonymous with good community relationships.

"The boxing community would have been cross-community before people had even coined the term.

"As such, the Belfast Boxing Ring wants to erect a number of statues across the city to highlight the role of the boxing community in Belfast."

Once funding and permission for Monaghan is secured, the group will then move to immortalise John Caldwell.

As an 18-year-old, he won a bronze medal in the flyweight division at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

Five years later, he clinched the world bantamweight title after beating Frenchman Aphonse Halimi - a victory which made him the first Irish world champion since Monaghan's triumph in 1948.

Caldwell also claimed the Commonwealth and British titles in 1964 before retiring from the sport a year later.

The Belfast Boxing Ring is a non-sectarian and not-for-profit project.

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