24 November 2008 – by Cormac Campbell
Rinty The Story of a Champion
In an age where the appetite for biographies and autobiographies is such that many are released before the subject turns 30, it seems odd that it has taken 24 years since John Joseph ‘Rinty’ Monaghan’s death for his story to be recorded.
Monaghan, nicknamed Rinty because of his childhood love of famed television canine Rin Tin Tin, was a phenomenon in post-war Belfast, establishing himself as Ireland’s first undisputed boxing World Champion (KO7 Jackie Paterson March 23, 1948). Doing so in front of a full house at the Kings Hall, the home of professional boxing in Ireland, set the benchmark for all who followed.
Today Monaghan is remembered by an Ulster History Circle and Belfast City Council plaque at the south Belfast venue.
But the wee man from Sailortown was more than just a fighter. A famed singer, he would take the microphone after fights for a rendition of ‘When Irish eyes are smiling’ to entertain the masses whether he had won, lost or drawn in the ring.
This singing ability was put to good use in the war years as he travelled Europe performing.
During those tough times Monaghan’s family was forced to leave Belfast due to the effects of bombings – some moved to Antrim, others to Newry.
A popular and good-natured man, Monaghan died at the relatively young age of 64.
With no previous dedicated books to rely on, Irish News journalist Eamonn O’Hara took up the task of piecing together Rinty’s life story. Extensive interviews with family and friends, trawling through newspaper archives and assimilating a knowledge of Belfast in Rinty’s time has ensured that justice has been done to a story that was at risk of being lost.
Also more than welcome is the selection of wonderful photographs that give a flavour of Rinty’s life, times and achievements as well as the chronological breakdown of his career at the back of the book.
Hopefully this is the first of many books from the pen of O’Hara.