The sparkling event, organised by Harry Doherty of the Belfast Boxing Ring organisation, was the opening of an exhibition in Belfast City Hall of a collection of newspaper cuttings and photographs recalling the great boxers that Belfast has produced in the past. Boxing giants such as Rinty Monaghan, Freddie Gilroy, John McNally, John Caldwell, Jim McCourt, Hughie Russell, Wayne McCullough and Paddy Barnes amongst many more.
Pat Hickey said: “For a place the size of Belfast, it has certainly produced a remarkable number of successful boxers, most of them Olympic medallists. It isn’t every day that a Hollywood star comes to visit, so we in the OCI were very happy to be at the Belfast City Hall celebrations.
The Ballymena-born actor was making his first ever trip to Belfast’s City Hall and seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the stunning architecture and wealth of history housed within the iconic building.
A former amateur boxer, Liam took in a private viewing of an exhibition of boxing memorabilia which is now open to the public in the east wing of Belfast City Hall. And it was great to see other great local boxers – like Freddie Gilroy, Barry McGuigan, Paddy Barnes and recent World Youth Olympic champion Ryan Burnett – all there too.
While he may be an international superstar, Liam clearly felt very much ‘at home’ surrounded by old friends from the world of boxing and it was touching to watch his reunion with Freddie Gilroy, 47 years after the duo had been pictured together when Liam was a child fan and Gilroy was his boxing hero.
Pat Hickey stated that amateur boxing had always played an important part in the life of Belfast and had encouraged many young people to devote their energies to the sport through often difficult times in the city’s troubled past. He made a special mention of Ireland’s first medallist in Olympic boxing – John McNally, bronze in Helsinki Olympic Games of 1952, a pathfinder for Olympic success over the coming decades.