By Michael O’Neill
Boxers preparing for the Olympic Games in Rio took time out from their training schedules Thursday to attend the unveiling of a sculpture to former Olympic hero and boxing legend John Caldwell in Dunville Park.
West Belfast man John, a member of Immaculata ABC (West Belfast ABC), represented Ireland at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne and became World Bantamweight Champion in 1961.
His is the second of three boxing sculptures to be unveiled in local parks by Belfast City Council as part of its boxing strategy to raise the profile of the sport and highlight it contribution to the city.
Lord Mayor, Arder Carson, said: “Belfast has a long and proud association with boxing and we can boast a long line of amateur and professional champions who have helped place Belfast on the map. We have claimed nine Olympic boxing medals and have an ever-growing range of professional champions at Irish, British, European and Commonwealth level.
“It is a real pleasure to join John Caldwell’s family in unveiling this sculpture to a local man who went right to the top of his sport and brought a sense of achievement and pride to his local community which has encouraged others to follow in his footsteps,” added Councillor Carson.
“The sculpture is another focal point in a park which is widely used by young people and which I hope will encourage them to strive to achieve their goals both in sport and in life,” he said.
John Caldwell’s son Paul said: “As a family we are delighted to see this sculpture of our father in a park where he himself played and in a place so central to the life of the local community.
“Our father was proud of where he came from and his success was always an inspiration to us – I hope those who see his sculpture will also be inspired, especially the young. Work, dedication, discipline and perseverance can take you to anywhere in the world and help achieve your heart’s desire,” he added.
Belfast Boxing Ring has worked with the council, the Caldwell family and artist, Alan Beattie Herriot, to produce the latest sculpture –one of three to be unveiled by the council. The first sculpture was of World Flyweight Champion, Rinty Monaghan in August last year and the last, at Woodvale Park in early autumn, will commemorate boxers from the Shankill area.
Speaking on behalf of the Belfast Boxing Ring, Alex Maskey MLA, said: “It is satisfying for John’s family and the wider boxing family to see this marvellous sculpture dedicated to one of our best all time fighters. John’s Lifetime boxing achievements have left us so many inspirational memories – this magnificent sculpture will ensure those memories live long into the future.”
Artist Alan Beattie Herriott said he had been privileged over the last two years to sculpt two of Belfast’s greatest boxing legends, Rinty Monaghan and John Caldwell.
“For me as the sculptor it was extremely important to have the approval of both families for my work. It has been a pleasure meeting them and personally tremendously satisfying to create something which means so much to them and the boxing community of the city of Belfast,” he said.
With Rio just around the corner it is fitting that this sculpture has been erected in tribute to John Caldwell as in the months ahead Antrim boxers including Brendan Irvine, Steven Donnelly, Mick Conlan and Paddy Barnes will be aiming to emulate the late John Caldwell and bring more honours hopefully even a Gold or two back to Ireland.