Monday, July 20, 2009

DEATH OF BOXING GREAT

Belfast boxer John Caldwell has died at the age of 71 after a long battle against cancer. As an 18-year-old, Caldwell won a bronze medal in the flyweight division at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

Five years later in 1961, he clinched the world bantamweight title after beating Frenchman Aphonse Halimi. Caldwell lost the title a year later against Eder Jofre in Sao Paolo Brazil and then was edged out in after an epic battle with Freddie Gilroy, another Belfast and Irish Olympics great .

Caldwell's victory over Halimi had made him the first Irish world boxing champion since Rinty Monaghan in 1948. Despite the two losses, Caldwell came back to win Commonwealth and British titles in 1964 before retiring from the sport a year later.

Caldwell was regarded as one of the most skilful boxers ever to have come out of Ireland, as well as one of the bravest. He was exceptionally unlucky to have lost his Olympic semi-final in 1956 at a Games where three other Irish boxers, including Freddie Gilroy, claimed medals.

Caldwell boxed with the Immaculata Club in Belfast.

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