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Editor's Viewpoint

Barney Eastwood blazed trail in business and boxing

Editor's Viewpoint


Barney Eastwood

Barney Eastwood

Barney Eastwood

For a man who made a huge imprint - and an even bigger fortune - in the worlds of business and sport, Barney Eastwood wore his status lightly. Not for him the flash life like many of those who amass millions, and he remained a personable figure throughout his long life.

One of a family of nine children, he was still in his teens when his business acumen became apparent, opening a public house in Carrickfergus and also working for a time as an undertaker.

But he had his eyes on bigger prospects, founding a chain of bookmakers, which he was later to sell for £135m to Ladbrokes.

However, for many people in Northern Ireland and further afield it was what he called his "good 'oul eye for fighters" that brought him to the attention of the masses.

His link-up with Clones-born Barry McGuigan, which resulted in the fighter becoming a world champion, was a match made in heaven during some of the darkest days of the Troubles in the mid-1980s.

Boxing was one sport that transcended divisions here and the pair were the sport's shining beacons of hope.

Although Mr Eastwood was to manage several more world champions, none had the same huge popular appeal as Barry McGuigan.

Yet it was a relationship that was to end in acrimony and legal actions, which saw Mr Eastwood receive libel damages of £450,000 from the boxer and a video company.

Sport was always a big part of his life, especially Gaelic football.

He won an All-Ireland minor medal with his native Tyrone in 1948 and was an ardent follower of the sport for the rest of his life.

It is to his credit that in boxing, a sport with more than its fair share of critics, Mr Eastwood was a highly respected figure well beyond these shores.

Through his gym and promotional contacts he was able to bring professional boxing in Belfast to world level and, in doing so, open the way for today's crop of champions like Carl Frampton.

While he could undoubtedly spot a good boxer he also had a good business eye, and built up an impressive property portfolio, at one time owning the Tower shopping centre in Ballymena. Art collecting was another interest, as was boxing memorabilia.

But it was the memories he helped to create and the dreams he made come true which will be his most lasting public legacy.

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