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Dave McAuley: I'll cherish great times shared with Barney Eastwood

BJ Eastwood (1932-2020)

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Dave Boy and Barney Eastwood having a laugh

Dave Boy and Barney Eastwood having a laugh

PACEMAKER BELFAST     DAVE 'BOY' MCAULEY
VICTORIOUS AFTER FIGHTING LOUIS CURTIS
(PICTURED WITH MANAGER BARNEY EASTWOOD)

PACEMAKER BELFAST DAVE 'BOY' MCAULEY VICTORIOUS AFTER FIGHTING LOUIS CURTIS (PICTURED WITH MANAGER BARNEY EASTWOOD)

Top team: Barney Eastwood with John Breen and Eamonn Magee

Top team: Barney Eastwood with John Breen and Eamonn Magee

All business: Barney Eastwood with renowned promoter Don King

All business: Barney Eastwood with renowned promoter Don King

Barney Eastwood

Barney Eastwood

Dave Boy and Barney Eastwood having a laugh

Former World champion Dave McAuley echoed the thoughts of many of the ring warriors the late Barney Eastwood took to championship glory when stating, "I wouldn't be where I am today without him".

The death of Bernard Joseph Eastwood, just shy of his 88th birthday, brought great memories flooding back for so many within the sport on this island and McAuley was quick to reflect on not only the success they had together but their friendship away from the ring.

McAuley, a tough little flyweight with a hammer left hand, came up short in two World title fights before he got the better of IBF champion Duke McKenzie in 1989. He would then go on to make six defences, a British record at that time.

"Barney was a great man, I wouldn't have been a world champion without him.

"He made it all possible and he got good men around him. All my coaches Eddie Shaw, John Breen, Paul McCullagh and Bernardo Checa played a part but Barney was the man pulling the strings, making everything happen," said McAuley.

He had that great knack of making you believe you were a far better athlete than you were.

"He was a great man and a great friend and mentor. I could ring him up about anything and the advice he would give would be spot on. If you had problems and you shared them with him he would listen and then make them feel like they weren't a problem any more.

"You also knew that whatever you told him would not be repeated and there are not too many people like that around.

"We were in regular contact and I'm really going to miss him. I remember we had a bust-up one time, an argument and I stood up to him and he respected me for it and we just became really good friends.

"He was a man who was years ahead of his time and when it came to doing deals he was about six steps ahead of the other guy.

"One thing people don't know is that he never took a penny off me my whole career even though he was entitled to 25%. We even had a deal for my world title fights that we would split the profit, 50-50. That was unheard of in those days and today you hear about that kind of deal between Anthony Joshua and his team.

"If Barney was backing you then you would become successful. The way he got me my world title fight with Duke McKenzie was sheer genius. He made McKenzie's manager Mickey Duff, who was one of the top men at the time, believe that I was only taking the fight to pay off my mortgage. Duff and McKenzie couldn't believe it when I battered him from the start to the finish.

"We had some great moments together, during our time in boxing and after it as well.

"He advised me on some business affairs. Inside and outside the ring I couldn't speak highly enough of the man.

"He had that great knack of making you believe you were a far better athlete than you were. The confidence he had filtered down to you and if you were in trouble in a fight he was the ideal man in the corner because he calmed you down and made you believe you were going to win. He put you at ease."

It didn't matter who he had to deal with, whether it was Bob Arum or Don King, he was their equal and they knew it. Pat Magee

McAuley's former coach John Breen was equally effusive as he recalled great memories as part of the Castle Street gym that enjoyed so much success throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

British, European and World champions trained side by side at a time when the Eastwood gym was renowned as the finest in Europe. Breen was a key member of that unique period and hailed Barney's expertise.

"Barney was able to make the dreams of fighters come true because he had the contacts and the knowledge to make the right fights at the right time. I was so fortunate to be part of that era in Irish boxing," said Breen.

"A former fighter Francie McCullough said to me that Barney Eastwood was looking to talk to me and he asked me to come down to the gym to help out, Eddie Shaw at that time wasn't too good, and when I looked around I couldn't believe it, the number of top fighters in the gym.

"I thought when I got into the gym I had fallen into heaven.

"I had so much fun and the bunch of lads back then were great, it was like a little family. I'm very grateful to Barney Eastwood - if it hadn't been for him I wouldn't have enjoyed my life in boxing as much as I did.

"What I loved about him was that he was always just Barney. He was one of the lads, he enjoyed a bit of craic and had a good laugh but when it came to business he was able to deal with the top men in the world.

"He was respected throughout the boxing world and people would often come up to me and ask about him. Barney had five world champions in the gym at the one time... hard to believe and they were real world champions. I don't think people realise how incredible it was for Barney to do what he did. It'll never be repeated."

One man who did business with Barney was Matchroom supremo Barry Hearn, for whom the Irish boxing guru always had a lot of time. The two men crossed swords when it came to Ray Close challenging former WBO World super-middleweight champion Chris Eubank on two occasions.

Close, a former European champion, challenged charismatic Eubank in May 1993 and despite being a huge underdog, the Belfast man was seen as the winner by most at ringside in Glasgow but somehow the judges scored it a draw. Enraged by the decision, Barney implored the WBO to order a rematch and second time around it would be held in Belfast's King's Hall.

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All business: Barney Eastwood with renowned promoter Don King

All business: Barney Eastwood with renowned promoter Don King

All business: Barney Eastwood with renowned promoter Don King

Hearn and Eubank walked away with the title after a split decision points win for the champion.

"BJ was larger than life in the colourful world of professional boxing. He wasn't the easiest man to deal with sometimes but he struck the hardest bargain for his fighter and he was a genuine straightforward guy. He delivered on what he said and that's all you can ever ask for from someone," said Hearn.

"He was a real old-school fight man. He had his finger in many pies and he was a fight fan to the core. He was very knowledgeable about boxers and very passionate about the sport.

"You always knew it was going to be a tough negotiation but he was always straight."

Local manager and promoter Pat Magee concurred with the thoughts of Hearn, insisting that he only he could have given Irish boxing so many great nights over a period of two decades.

"Barney was a shrewd man, there was nobody like him and there has never been a promoter here like Barney because he was able to handle himself on the international stage.

"It didn't matter who he had to deal with, whether it was Bob Arum or Don King, he was their equal and they knew it.

"What he did for Irish boxing was incredible," said Magee.

Belfast Telegraph