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Standing tall, boxer Rinty Monaghan is immortalised in bronze

By Rachel Martin

Published 21/08/2015

Tommy with world champion Carl Frampton yesterday
Tommy with world champion Carl Frampton yesterday
Rinty’s brother Tommy at the unveiling of the statue in Belfast yesterday

"If Rinty was looking down on us now he would be laughing and smiling."

Tommy Monaghan delivered a personal tribute to his boxing legend brother at a special event in Cathedral Gardens, Belfast.

One of the city's most famous sporting sons has been immortalised in a 10-foot-high statue unveiled yesterday.

Sculpted from bronze and on a Chinese granite platform, it captures Rinty's victory pose.

One hand is raised above his head in triumph, the other holds a microphone; a fitting tribute to a Belfast legend who was so much more than just a boxer.

By the time he retired, John 'Rinty' Monaghan was a crowd favourite, with 52 wins, eight draws and nine losses. He won the world title by defeating Scotland's Jackie Paterson on March 23, 1948.

Nephew Eamon McAuley, also a boxer, recalled watching his uncle fight at a club in Ligonel. He said: "During the interval he would sing and dance and act and play. The problem was getting him out of the way so the fights could resume."

Mr McAuley requested a minute's quiet during the unveiling, before playing a recording of his uncle's rendition of the song he became synonymous with, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.

"When they played the song it brought back memories; there was always song in our house. He was always smiling and even if you were sad he would make you happy," Rinty's sister Marie told The Belfast Telegraph. "My mummy loved John and she was very worried for him when he was boxing; she used to sit with her beads and say the Rosary.

"I remember when he won the world title, my sister Noreen and I went to the pictures that night. We were so young we didn't realise how big it was until they stopped the picture and it came up on the screen and everybody clapped. When we came home the house was packed."

IBF World Super Bantamweight champion Carl Frampton said Rinty was an inspiration for him.

"He was a world champion when there was only one world champion. Now, boxing's filled with alphabet titles and no one knows who the world champion is. But there was only one back then. I owe a lot to Rinty and I think everyone else who ever went on to become anything in boxing does. He kickstarted it."

Rinty's is one of three sculptures being funded by Belfast City Council to highlight the contribution of boxing as a sport and to celebrate its heroes within and outside the ring.

Artist Alan Beattie Herriot, who produced the sculpture, said: "He had a big heart and this pose is based on one single photo I had of him. Right hand raised in victory, left hand holding a microphone and singing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."

Belfast Telegraph

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