Northern Ireland

Oscar Knox inspires Belfast City Hall boxing event

Belfast City Hall has been the scene of many impassioned debates and politics has sometimes spilled out onto the streets.

Now, for at least one evening, fighting under the green dome will be under Marquess of Queensberry rules.

In May, a boxing ring will be erected in the Great Hall and the professionals will slug it out.

The plush red carpets under the ring will be covered with tarpaulin and crowds will gather under stained glass windows.

The first boxing tournament in the City Hall's 103 year history will be held in aid of Mallusk boy Oscar Knox.

All profits will go towards specialist medical treatment for four-year-old Oscar, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer a year and a half ago.

He has been in and out of hospital since, and is a fan of boxing.

Organisers are billing the event as being "in aid of Belfast's greatest fighter".

Image caption Four-year-old Oscar Knox is fighting neuroblastoma.

'Fighting spirit'

So why the City Hall? Because the deputy mayor of Belfast has been involved.

The Oscar Knox Appeal was chosen by Tierna Cunningham as one of her charities of the year, and she invited the event in.

"Leadership, inspiration, fighting spirit are all qualities that link Oscar to this event," she said.

The four year-old's campaign to raise funds gained momentum after his Twitter account, '@Wee_Oscar', featured a photograph of him in hospital during Euro 2012, with a sign reading 'My ma thinks I'll be in bed early'.

The sign was in response to an Irish flag bearing the words 'Angela Merkel thinks we're at work', which was uploaded onto the internet by a group of Republic of Ireland football fans on their way to the tournament in Poland, and became an internet sensation.

On 14 May, Belfast's Kevin O'Hara will compete against Dublin's Noel O'Brien for the Irish light welterweight title. Also due to appear are Joe Hillerby of Sandy Row, Darren Cruise of Dublin and Marc McCullough of the Shankill.

The event was launched at Belfast's City Hall, and Oscar donned a boxing robe and gloves to stand in front of Kevin O'Hara, among others.

Producer Chris Hughes said: "All the gold medallists [at the launch] were overshadowed by the wee four year-old who has fought better than they ever have. This wee man is fighting for his life."

"There can be no greater fight than the fight for life," said Oscar's parents Stephen and Leona in a statement.

"We've watched our wee Oscar battle many obstacles, and overcome them, and all we can do is support him.

"We decided very early on that we needed to tackle this situation we've found ourselves in with one thing on our mind - winning.

"Losing is not an option."

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