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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 January 2008, 12:36 GMT
Olympic hero joins hall of fame
By Kelly Bonner
BBC News

John McNally
John McNally was the first Irish boxer to win an Olympic medal
John McNally was first assured his place in Irish boxing folklore back in August 1952 when he became the first Irish boxer to win a medal in the Olympics.

The west Belfast-born pugilist won the bantamweight silver medal at the Helsinki Olympics.

John lost a disputed split decision to the home-town favourite, Finland's Pentti Hamalainen.

On Friday, 4 January he will be inducted into the Irish Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame at a ceremony in the National Stadium, Dublin.

His achievement put Irish amateur boxing on the world stage and at the following Olympic Games, held in Melbourne in 1956, Irish boxers went on to claim four medals.

The 74-year-old, began his boxing career at the tender age of 12 when he joined the Immaculata Boxing Club in West Belfast.

He competed in the Ulster Finals and won the Irish Championship in Dublin.

The Freemen
The former boxer, second from left, in the Freemen

His success continued as he later went on to win the Ulster Flyweight title, the Ulster and Irish Bantamweight title and the prestigious Golden Gloves representing Europe in Chicago in 1953.

John turned professional in 1954, but his career in the paid ranks was not as successful as the one he enjoyed as an amateur. In all he fought 25 professional fights and won 14 of them.

John retired from boxing at the age of just 28 and after hanging up his gloves his career took a dramatic turn.

He enjoyed a successful career as a musician and toured the world with his group The Freemen.

The band played live shows in cities such as Paris, New York, Toronto and Detroit.

John McNally with author Barry Flynn
Mr McNally with 1992 gold medal winner Michael Carruth

Speaking from his Belfast home he said: "I am very honoured that I will be given the recognition of my peers in boxing by being chosen for the Hall of Fame.

"I have always felt great pride in my achievements and indeed I feel very humbled.

"I cherish the great times that I had representing Ireland and this award has been most welcome."

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