John Caldwell

John Caldwell pictured in Belfast 3 years ago

Legendary Belfast boxer John Caldwell has died at the age of 71 after a long battle against cancer.

Caldwell, as an 18-year-old, won a bronze medal in the flyweight division at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

Five years later, he clinched the world bantamweight title after beating Frenchman Aphonse Halimi.

Caldwell lost the title a year later against Eder Jofre in Brazil and then was edged out in an epic bout by another Belfast great Freddie Gilroy.

Despite the two losses, Caldwell regrouped to claim the Commonwealth and British titles in 1964 before retiring from the sport a year later.

Caldwell’s victory over Halimi made him the first Irish world champion since Rinty Monaghan‘s triumph in 1948.

The Belfast man put up a stout defence of his title before losing against Jofre in Sao Paolo and his bout with Gilroy is reckoned to be one of the great ever fights staged on Irish soil.

Caldwell had to pull out of the contest in the ninth round because of a cut eye as Gilroy held on to his British and Commonwealth titles.

Many pundits regard Caldwell as one of the most skilful boxers ever to have come out of Ireland, allied to his undoubted courage in the ring.

He was reckoned to have been exceptionally unlucky to lose his Olympic semi-final in 1956 at a Games where three other Irish boxers, including Freddie Gilroy, claimed medals.

Caldwell boxed out of the Immaculata Club in Belfast and his passing will cause immense sadness in the boxing fraternity at home and abroad.

Courtesy of BBC News