Martin Smyth RIP
Irish Olympian boxer and former Ulster and Irish Featherweight champion, who boxed out of Belfast Star ABC, passed away peacefully in a Seattle hospital on November 25, 2012.
Born and reared in Rockdale Street, on Belfast’s Falls Road, he joined the Star Club to be coached by legendary Belfast fight trainer Akkie Kelly.
Smyth won the 1955 Ulster Bantamweight championship – and a year later bagged the 1956 Irish and Ulster Featherweight titles.
Taking the national title clinched a spot in the Ireland boxing team to contest the Melbourne Summer Olympic Games, which were launched on November 22, 1956.
Before the trip ‘Down Under’, he competed for Ireland during a tour in the United States. While there, he was singled out by the legendary Ring magazine editor Nat Fleischer as the most impressive pugilist on view.
However, his form did not carry down to Melbourne, where he was outpointed in his first test.
It is almost 56 years to the day when Smyth had to endure a points tally loss to Finland’s Pentti Hamalainen in the opening series of the featherweight class.
The Finn reached the semi-finals,losing to Great Britain’s Tommy Nicholls.
The quiet Smyth was part of an exceptional star-studded Irish side that featured classy Dublin welterweight silver medallist Freddie Teidt, and bronze medal winners – Drogheda’s Tony
‘Socks’ Byrne (lightweight), and Belfast’s deadly duo of Freddie Gilroy (bantamweight) and flyweight John Caldwell. Also in the side were Dublin light-welterweight Harry Perry and Donegal heavyweight Pat ‘Pa’ Sharkey.
The Olympics of 1956 proved a fabulous event when Ireland’s Villanova University coached track ace Ronnie Delany, born at Arklow in March 1935, stunned world athletics by winning gold from the 1,500 metres final,
After the Games, Smyth emigrated to the west coast of the United States. He settled in Seattle.
Since then, he made holiday trips back to Belfast. In 2004, he was in Belfast to visit members of his family circle, and also travelled to Ardglass to chat with ex-Ireland boxing team coach Harry Enright.
“Martin was also visiting an old friend, Mick Fitzpatrick, once a Belfast Rossa club hurler,” said retired schoolteacher and former Holy Family Club amateur boxer Enright, “He enjoyed living in America. I think he first fell in love with the country when touring with the Irish boxing team there in 1956.”
Martin Smyth is survived by wife Maggie, and son Colin.