Rinty Monaghan: Statue honours Belfast's first world boxing champion

media captionThe 10ft-high bronze sculpture of Rinty Monaghan had been erected in Cathedral Gardens in Belfast city centre, close to where he grew up

A statue of the former world champion boxer, Rinty Monaghan, has been unveiled in his native Belfast.

Monaghan was the first boxer from the city to win a world title, becoming flyweight champion in 1948.

The 10ft-high sculpture, cast in bronze, has been erected in Cathedral Gardens in the city centre, close to where he grew up.

His family was joined by well-known boxers, Belfast councillors and crowds of boxing fans for the unveiling.

'Sporting heritage'

image captionCrowds of people gathered for the unveiling ceremony on Thursday

Addressing the ceremony, Lord Mayor of Belfast Arder Carson said boxing was "in the fabric and no doubt in the DNA of this city".

"Belfast as a city, in boxing terms, always punches well above its weight. It's a sport we're very proud of and it's a very important part of our sporting heritage."

Born in 1918, John Joseph Monaghan was better known by his childhood nickname, Rinty.

It was a reference to one of Hollywood's most famous animal actors, Rin Tin Tin, because of the young boxer's love of stray dogs.

When he was 30, Monaghan became the undisputed world flyweight champion after defeating Scottish fighter Jackie Paterson.

image copyrightBelfast Boxers Facebook page
image captionRinty Monaghan, who died in 1984, was Belfast's first world champion boxer
image captionThe inscription on Rinty Monaghan's statue makes reference to his love of singing after fights

When he retired from the sport two years later, he had fought 66 times - winning 51, drawing six and losing nine fights.

Monaghan was also known for singing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling at the end of matches.

Among the special guests at Thursday's ceremony was the current IBF super-bantamweight title holder, Carl Frampton.

He told the BBC Monaghan had "inspired generations" of Belfast boxers.

"Boxing is a sport now where it's full of alphabet titles and no-one really knows who the world champion is," Frampton said.

"When Rinty was the world champion, there only was one and everyone knew him.

image captionCarl Frampton said Rinty Monaghan had "inspired generations" of Belfast boxers who followed in his footsteps

"I think, not only me, but the whole of Belfast kind of owes something back to boxing and people like Rinty for doing so much for the community" he added.

The bronze statute was commissioned by Belfast City Council and made in Edinburgh.

'Working-class hero'

Monaghan's great-nephew, Eamon McAuley, told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme the statue was "absolutely beautiful".

"We want to thank the sculptor Alan [Beattie] Herriot and also Belfast City Council who have made this happen."

Mr McAuley described his great-uncle as a "working-class hero" and said after a five-year campaign to erect the statue, his family were going to celebrate "a wonderful day".

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