Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to fighter who was part of the 'golden generation' of Belfast boxing

 

Former Belfast boxing champion, Paddy Graham
Former Belfast boxing champion, Paddy Graham
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Tributes have been paid to the former Irish Welterweight boxing champion from Belfast, Paddy Graham (87), ahead of his funeral today.

A respected figure from a golden age of boxing, easily recognised for his bright red hair, he had 53 bouts between 1953-1962 as an amateur and professional.

Having spent his final months on kidney dialysis, he passed away at his home on Wednesday.

Born in Killough, Co Down, he later lived in the Markets area and became a regular fixture at a time when thousands would attend weekly and monthly fights at the Ulster and Kings Hall.

His record saw him win 33 fights with 19 by knockout, as well as 19 losses with six by knockout and one draw.

Boxing manager and promoter Pat Magee (74) saw him fight on a number of occasions.

He recalled great rivalries and "epic fights" with the Trinidadian boxer Boswell St Louis and the Belfast fighter Al Peter Sharpe.

"Paddy was definitely a top-rated British boxer in those days, a fan-friendly boxer too who was always in good fights.

"He was a very popular fighter in Belfast in those days. The Kings Hall would have held around 15,000 when the famous fight between Johnny Caldwell and Freddie Gilroy (once described as Belfast's greatest ever boxing moment) took place in 1962," he said.

Paddy Graham was also on the bill that night for his last ever fight against Sammy Cowan.

"I also remember him fighting a famous South African boxer, Willie Toweel, at the King's Hall. He was the scourge of British lightweights at that time.

"So Paddy boxing him showed he really was a top of the bill fighter," said Mr Magee.

He added: "I would have described him as a box fighter. His record shows he was a hard puncher and that he was tough. He was exciting.

"After his retirement, Paddy would have been invited to all the big shows.

"He was one of those guys who could walk through the front door without a ticket, he was that respected."

Brendan Lowe (73) is a boxing referee for the Antrim board. As a boy, he saw Mr Graham fight in Belfast and got to know him in his final months in hospital.

"My partner was on dialysis and they shared the same ward. I used to go and watch him manys a time with my father who would lift me over the turnstile at the Kings Hall.

"I would talk to him about all the old fights and he was a very modest man... It was just a pleasure to get to talk to him, I always looked forward to it.

"Dialysis can be a terrible thing to watch people have to go through but the nurses all loved Paddy as he was a joker too."

Mr Graham's Requiem Mass will take place at St Joseph's Church, Killough, today at 12.20pm.

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