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Belfast boxer Des Rea who was backed by the Krays dies at the age of 72

By Staff Reporter

Published 23/07/2016

Popular: Des Rea
Popular: Des Rea

One of Belfast's most entertaining boxing talents has died at the age of 72.

Des Rea, a former British light-welterweight and All Ireland welterweight champion, was famous for his plucky, ferocious style and sense of humour.

He was backed by the infamous Kray twins and made headlines in America for upstaging Elvis Presley at a bout in the US.

After entering the ring before his opponent, Des was unimpressed by the way the fans and media were crowding around Elvis, who had come to see the action.

Des began to shout and imitate the singer until everyone's attention was on him, earning cheers from the crowd and a salute from the King himself.

Apart from his title successes, the highlight of his career was a world-title eliminator against the great Jose Napoles in California, which he lost by technical knockout in the fifth round.

In the early part of his career, Des was taken under the wing of the Kray twins who were impressed by his "never-give-in" attitude.

In typical fashion, though, Des had no idea who the "well-dressed gentlemen" were who came to his dressing room and helped arrange his fights.

Des won eight of his first nine fights before beating Bob Sempey in September 1965 to take the vacant Northern Ireland Area welterweight title. In 1968 he beat Vic Andretti on points to take the newly created British light welterweight title

Rea moved up to welterweight and knocked out Gus Farrell to take the Irish title in 1970.

Des, who later moved to Liverpool, fought 70 times, winning 29 but losing 36.

His nephew, former boxing journalist Rob Doyle, said: "Des was a real favourite with fans.

"He never gave in, no matter how much punishment he was taking and always said that as a fighter you had to do your best and try to win."

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