Barney Eastwood: Boxing promoter and businessman dies

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Barney Eastwood with his book at the Europa Hotel, Belfast, in 2010.Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Barney Eastwood publicising his book in 2010

Barney Eastwood, one of Northern Ireland's best known business and sporting figures, has died aged 87.

Mr Eastwood was a bookmaker, boxing promoter and property developer.

Born in Cookstown in 1932, he founded the Eastwoods chain of betting shops, which he later sold for more than £100m.

He was also a high-profile boxing promoter, working with former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan.

Their relationship ended in an acrimonious legal battle that saw Mr Eastwood awarded £450,000 in damages.

Mr McGuigan said he was "saddened" to hear of Mr Eastwood's passing.

"We achieved great things together and shared some amazing times," he added.

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Former world flyweight champion Dave 'Boy' McAuley said Mr Eastwood was "amazing" and "a great man".

"BJ's the guy that made me and he made me the fighter that I was," he said.

Image caption,
Dave 'Boy' McAuley said Mr Eastwood made him the fighter he was

"He made me successful, he made me the most successful Irish fighter ever, the most successful British fighter post-war. He made me a bit of money along the way too.

"He was just a great guy and fantastic the way he handled himself.

"He made you feel as if you were unbeatable and indestructible. When he was in your corner… he would just lift you and make you go out there and feel like you were superman."

Boxing trainer John Breen, who worked with Mr Eastwood for many years, said he was "boxing in Ireland".

"I wouldn't have had the career in the sport I have had - or doing what I am doing now - without him," he added.

"He was a real character who absolutely loved boxing.

"I will miss him so much."

Obituary: 'I had a great eye for fighters'

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Barney Eastwood and Barry McGuigan return to Belfast after winning the world featherweight title in 1985

With a string of bookmakers and world title-winning boxers to his name, Barney Eastwood was a giant in the worlds of sport and business in Northern Ireland for decades.

For many he will always be associated with one of Ireland's greatest fighters, Barry McGuigan, who he managed when the Clones Cyclone became world featherweight champion in 1985, although their relationship would later end in acrimony and legal action.

But boxing promotion was just one part of a wide-ranging career, which included his chain of betting shops and property development.

NI's deputy first minister and Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'Neill said she was "saddened to hear of the death of Barney Eastwood".

"A great Tyrone Gael, businessman and giant of the boxing world," she tweeted.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Barney Eastwood was a keen boxer at school and later became a renowned promoter

Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt remembered working with Mr Eastwood when he was a young sports reporter with BBC Northern Ireland.

"What a great man," he tweeted.

"Thoughts with his family and many friends as he passes."

'Set for life'

BBC News NI sports journalist Mark Sidebottom said he knew Mr Eastwood "very well" and had worked with him on a boxing documentary.

"Barney was just an incredible touchstone, he opened up his home… and it was a treasure trove of boxing memorabilia.

"He really was Mr Boxing."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Barney Eastwood pictured in 2008 alongside boxer Paddy Barnes and trainer Gerry Storey

BBC News NI economics and business editor John Campbell said Mr Eastwood had built a "very big and successful bookmaking chain".

"He got his timing absolutely right, because basically at the peak of the market in 2008 he sold to Ladbrokes for about £135m," he said.

"So he was set for life at that time.

"He was a very significant property developer as well, he at one stage owned the Tower Centre in Ballymena.

"He was also an art collector as well."

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Mr Eastwood was an art collector and property developer

Mr Campbell also alluded to Mr Eastwood's association with one of Ireland's greatest fighters, Barry McGuigan, who he managed when the Clones Cyclone became world featherweight champion in 1985.

Their relationship would later end in acrimony and legal action.

"A huge life, but that relationship with Barry McGuigan is certainly one which was very rewarding, but also at times very difficult for him," he said.