Belfast paid tribute to one of Ireland’s greatest ever boxers John ‘Rinty’ Monaghan yesterday.
Family, friends and boxing fans looked on as the sculpture of the former flyweight World champion was unveiled at the Buoy Park next to the University of Ulster campus off York Street in Belfast city centre.
Monaghan, who famously sang ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’ after fights, is captured in a victorious pose in a 10ft high bronze sculpture with taped hand visible on one side and a microphone in the other.
Family members including daughters, Collette and Rosetta, brother Tommy and nephew, Eamon McAuley, himself a former boxer, attended the event as did a host of Belfasts current fight fraternity including the cities current World champion Carl Frampton.
The statue is one of a series of three sculptures being funded by Belfast City Council as part of its boxing strategy, to highlight the contribution of boxing as a sport and to celebrate its many heroes within and outside the ring.
Eamon McAuley, on behalf of the Belfast Boxing Ring, said: “This is the first of many initiatives which will celebrate the proud and shared history of boxing in Belfast. Boxing has made an immense contribution to our sporting, cultural and community well-being. It is a sport that courses through the very life blood of our city and we are delighted that Rinty Monaghan is the first local boxing hero to receive this civic honour.”
Alan Beattie Herriot spoke of his pride in creating this first boxing sculpture and how he was looking forward to getting on with the next one of John Caldwell.
He said: “It is immensely challenging to capture the essence of a world champion fighter who was also a showman, a hard- hitting grafter with a sentimental side who sang ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’ after every fight.
“It was essential to talk with the family and others who knew Rinty to create a sculpture that honours him and works well in his home setting. I hope the people of Belfast enjoy it and it encourages ongoing recognition of the importance of boxing to the cultural life of the city”.
Belfast Lord Mayor, Arder Carson, unveiled the bronze sculpture with members of Rinty’s family.
He said: “It is the people of Belfast who make the city so special and it is sporting heroes like Rinty that encourage many others to succeed so we are delighted to be honouring him today in the area where he grew up, lived and trained.
“A sport like boxing needs skills that all of us can learn and use in daily life – dedication, discipline, stamina, competitiveness and physical fitness – which is why we are working to promote it, and other sporting activities, across Belfast.
“Alan has done a great job in capturing Rinty’s spirit in this sculpture and I hope it will inspire people of all ages to follow their dreams whatever the difficulties, to be proud of where they come from and to know that we are proud of them.
“Irish eyes have a lot to smile about today, Belfast is transforming itself and this area too is undergoing even more transformation with the developments at the University of Ulster. We are offering more opportunities than ever for success, let us be proud of our past success but like Rinty always strive to be even better.”