ALMOST 36-years have passed since Creggan southpaw, Charlie Nash was crowned Irish professional lightweight champion and he was beginning to feel his glory days in the world of Irish boxing were rapidly fading to a distant, black and white memory.
SIMON COLLINS reports
With nothing tangible to show for his Irish Lightweight Championship points victory over Ray Ross at the A.B.C Cinema, Derry on October 6th, 1975, Nash was delighted to receive a very welcome letter last month.
Boxing Union of Ireland (BUI) President, Mel Christle invited Charlie to attend Patrick Hyland’s WBF featherweight title fight with Frenchman, Phillippe Frenois, where he was to be presented present him with an honorary strap in recognition of his victory all those years ago.
Immediately Nash contacted the BUI to confirm his attendance and on Saturday last he was applauded into the ring in the National Stadium, Dublin to finally collect his coveted title in front of an appreciative audience.
A former five times Irish amateur champion, Nash ended an illustrious amateur career which took him to three European Championships and the 1972 Olympics in Munich, when he was presented with an opportunity which is unheard of in contemporary boxing circles - the chance to fight for an Irish title in his first professional bout.
And Nash navigated his way through a ten round vacant title fight against Ardglass man, Ross in promoter Gerry Hasset’s first promotion in Derry - the first professional fight held in the city since Billy ‘Spider’ Kelly out-pointed Belfast’s John Griffin in Guildhall in July 1951 for the N.I Featherweight title.
As the BUI didn’t exist in 1975, Nash didn’t receive a belt or trophy to acknowledge his status as national champion and therefore was honoured to finally get his hands on a belt he felt he deserved.
“It’s an honour and it was great to finally get the belt after 36 years,” said Nash. “I suppose it’s better late than never,” he laughed.
With his European Boxing Union belt, won four years later, tucked safely away in the confines of the Tower Museum where Nash loaned some of his most prized sporting memorabilia, the Irish Professional strap is now his prized possession and he is reluctant to part with this particular artefact which will take pride of place in his Baronscourt home.
“I’ll keep this one,” he said defiantly. “This is for my children. The one I have in the museum I’ll let that stay where it is because there’s photographs along with it and it lets people know what people in Derry did for sport.
“I’ll keep it in the house because anyone that comes into visit, they always want to see my trophies. Winning the Irish title in my first fight I think it might be a bit of history, I don’t think anyone’s ever did that.
“I was very proud to win the Irish title even though I was fighting a guy I beat four or five times as an amateur. Professional boxing is different, Ray was a tough opponent. The fact I went ten rounds in my first fight and won the Irish title, that meant a lot to me and it was a very proud moment.”
Nash was overawed at the reception he received on the night and his experience in Dublin last weekend helped rekindle memories of his colourful history in the sport.
“I enjoyed a good night of boxing and just before the world title fight I was asked into the ring and got a standing ovation,” recalled Nash. “I thought they would have forgotten about me but my wife, Betty said she was so emotional she was crying.
“I was delighted because for about ten minutes, I was standing and people were taking photos of me holding the belt and clapping so, emotionally, it was good for me because I felt a lot of people had forgotten who I was and what I achieved in my past and then as soon as people knew where I was sitting I was non-stop signing autographs and getting photographs taken.
“I also met a few old friends, former boxers who I boxed with and trained with so it brought back a lot of memories and it was a nice weekend,” he concluded.