ST. George’s boxing club in the Markets held a welcome party for American civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson on Saturday.
Reverend Jackson attended events in Londonderry and Belfast during his two day visit, and praised the progress made by the communities in Northern Ireland.
St George’s ABC, Belfast's oldest boxing club, invited members of the community and politicians along to the evening which saw Rev Jackson step into the ring to spar with Irish champion schoolgirl Christine Cargan.
"There are no losers in this boxing club, only winners," he laughed.
Jim Clinton, who runs the club, said: “The visit was enormous for the club. Boxers and coaches had worked throughout the week to make the evening a success. We hope the visit will put our club on an international level.”
Mr Clinton added: “Everyone was delighted with the result of the party and Jesse Jackson was most impressed by the dedicated coaches and committed work of the boxing club. For some members of the community it was their first time in the premises.”
South Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey said he hoped the visit would “boost plans to preserve south Belfast's Convent of Mercy School as offices and clubrooms for St George's ABC.”
Mr Maskey added: “Rev Jesse Jackson has been a great ambassador for the Irish peace process and an inspiration to those who struggle for justice and equality across the world. From his presence on the Memphis balcony with the Martin Luther King when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, though his ground-breaking 1984 Presidential campaign to his present day advocacy of just causes across the globe and support of public workers in the US, the Rev Jackson is one of the most important figures of our age.”
The Rev Jackson's trip also included a visit to the Pat Finucane Centre and a meeting with survivors group Relatives for Justice at the Europa Hotel. Among the people he met there were relatives of those killed in the 1992 attack at Sean Graham’s betting shop on the Ormeau Road.
Rev Jackson called on President Barack Obama to visit Belfast when he comes to Ireland in May.
He said: “The soil of Ireland is in Dublin but the soul of Ireland is in Belfast and Derry. It's where the struggles took place. It's where blood was spilled.”