Belfast Telegraph

Boxing world pays tribute at emotional farewell to Olympic hero Freddie Gilroy

By Cate McCurry

Heartfelt Tributes were paid to Freddie Gilroy - the boxer who won one of Ireland's best fights - at his funeral yesterday.

The former Olympian, one of the region's best-know boxers, died aged 80 on Tuesday.

Hundreds of mourners, including famous faces from boxing, gathered at Holy Cross Church in Belfast to pay their respects to the sporting legend.

Gilroy won bantamweight bronze for Ireland in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, before winning British, Commonwealth and European titles during his subsequent professional career.

In 1960, he fought Alphonse Halimi for the world bantamweight title in London, only to lose on points.

Three years later, he took on fellow Belfast man and close friend John Caldwell, announcing his retirement from his five-year professional stint after securing the win.

Hollywood movie star Liam Neeson, a former amateur boxer in his native Ballymena, previously described Gilroy as his childhood hero.

Fr Eugene McCarthy, the Holy Cross parish priest who knew the sportsman for many years, delivered his homily.

"Freddie grew up in Ardoyne after his family moved there in the 1930s," he said.

"They came from the Short Strand area, and he went to the local Holy Cross boys' school. As a teenager, his prowess in boxing was recognised and he joined the St John Bosco Club.

"My first memory of him was as a teenager myself at school in Crossgar in Co Down, when it was announced that he won a bronze medal. That was a remarkable Olympics. His professional career was short-lived - it was only about five or six years - but he did very well.

"He then owned a pub in Donaghadee, but it was threatened to be bombed and he moved his family to Australia. But he returned to Belfast some years later."

Among the boxer's best moments was his showdown with his friend and rival Caldwell for the British and Empire titles.

The two fighters slugged it out for nine rounds before a cut above Caldwell's eye caused the end of the fight.

It went down as one of the best boxing matches ever staged in Ireland. Many years later, Freddie said: "We had that great fight in the King's Hall. The interest was amazing, but, you know, it was a fight that I never wanted because we were close."

Barry McGuigan, the former world featherweight champion and manager to Tigers Bay boxing hero Carl Frampton, said Gilroy had been a huge influence on his career.

"I always looked up to Freddie - he was one of my idols," he added. "Freddie was a very talented and brilliant boxer. His fight with John Caldwell has gone down in boxing history as one of the greatest ever contests on these shores. It's very sad for Irish boxing. Deepest sympathies to his family."

Belfast Telegraph


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