Thomas Waites a talented, gentleman boxer and role model to the young, funeral told
Heartbroken family and friends left devastated by sudden death
The funeral of an Ulster champion boxer has heard how the 21-year-old was a "great role model" many young people looked up to.
Thomas Waites, from Magherafelt in Co Londonderry, died suddenly on Sunday night.
He started boxing aged 11 and represented Ireland at the World Youth Championships.
He also won championship titles for Antrim and Ulster during his career in the ring.
Around 500 mourners attended his funeral at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Magherafelt yesterday.
Thomas's heartbroken parents, Karen and Seamus, sister Sinead and her husband, James, were among the mourners.
The tragic young sportsman, who had recently become an uncle to Sinead's baby, Shay, was described as a "fierce boxer" who was also "gentle and well mannered".
Leading the Requiem Mass was Fr John Gates, who spoke of the family's pain.
"We can only imagine how heartbroken and understandably robbed Seamus, Karen, Sinead and James and all Thomas's family must feel at his loss on Sunday past," he said. "(It was) a Sunday which was to change your lives forever.
"We can only guess at the sense of shock, disbelief, pain and loss which you feel at this time, and I pray that the Lord will be close to you all with his healing and loving presence to help and support you.
"Thomas was a cherished son, brother and godfather to his beloved nephew, Shay.
"He was a fierce boxer in the ring who was such a gentle well-mannered and polite and caring young man who looked to others' needs before his own.
"You couldn't help being impressed by Thomas's lovely nature when you met him, and he certainly was a credit to his parents and family. Thomas was a great role model who was looked up to by many young people.
"He never judged people and always treated them the way he would like to have been treated. He was always smiling and happy and a very, very loyal friend.
"He loved cars and recently bought his dream car. He was deeply loved and had so much to live for. To his family, he was a hero, a friend, a beloved son and a brother."
The champion boxer trained with the west Belfast Holy Trinity club in recent years.
Head coach Michael Hawkins Snr said the club had been left devastated by the news.
"Thomas joined us about three years ago and was a very talented boxer," he added. "He was just a really pleasant lad who came from a lovely family. He was so happy and just a really good lad.
"Many of the guys who were around his age have really taken it bad. They were all good friends as they travelled to competitions together and saw a lot of each other. It's very sad."