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“Big Belters honoured at the City Hall”

Eleven champions but only ten turned up for a very special day with the Lord Mayor. Ireland's finest ask the question "Where was Darren Dougan?"Tuesday, December 19, Belfast's Lord Mayor Belfast Councillor Patrick McCarthy honoured a new breed of sports stars in one of his last public engagements before Christmas.
A host of kickboxers hailing from the famous Prokick Gym in the east of the city were honoured for their title-fighting achievements in 2006. The modest Prokick gym, has a total of eleven world recognised champions - ranging from Irish, British, European and world, amateur champions and Professional world featherweight champion Belfast's Gary Hamilton who is back to his best and unbeaten in 2006.
The Lord Mayor hosted a reception for all the current champions, with a special presentation to Northern Ireland’s latest belt holder, Belfast's Mark Hennessy. The British champion added a European belt around his waist in Turin Italy at the start of the month - knocking out the champion Stefano Deregibus in the third round.
Billy Murray believes the Mayor’s recognition sums up the growth of the sport here.
The former four-time four weight world champion, Murray said: “We have been literally kicking against the wind for over 20 years trying to gain respect for the art of kickboxing and since the Belfast city council started backing ProKick-kickboxing clubs we haven't looked back, its been fantastic support from the city council and from all the Lord Mayor's in office since the year 2000.
Lord Mayor McCarthy said “The council is happy to back kickboxing and its heroes for the country. Kickboxing is a sport that crosses divides and has communities working as one. There is so much discipline involved in the sport and that can only be good for the future of our children.” The Lord Mayor was presented with an honouree black belt in commemoration for honouring Northern Girl Power - McCarthy's AngelsIreland’s latest sporting heroes. The Lord Mayor started to demonstrate his own style of kickboxing when presented with the honouree black belt. “Who knows I could be a contender and you just might see me down at one of Billy Murray’s classes in the New Year.”
Fighters making the headlines were - Andrew Grimason who returned from Aberdeen with a successful defence of his WKN world amateur light middleweight title to keep the belt firmly fixed around his waist, whilst Saintfield's Stuart Jess and Ian Young became new British champions at welterweight and Super welterweight. In September 2006, Belfast postal worker Lydia Braniff defended her Atomweight world title to add to her British and European belts.
Portadown's Big James Gillen won a Celtic Nations title as did karate Queen Cathy McAleer. Co Derry Man Darren Dougan lifted a middleweight Celtic Nations title. The big shocker in the ProKick camp was when Belfast’s mighty-atomweight Fran Spence accomplished what only a small group of woman in the world would even dare try – climbing inside a kickboxing ring to win an Irish title with the threat of cancer looming. Brave Fran, 29, was waiting on biopsy results from tests on her lymph nodes taken just days before her match.
”Kickboxing shows in the city were also screened across Europe on the Eurosport network and highlighted in the USA and Asia. These are exciting times for kickboxing,” added Murray. “We had massive success in 2006 and we will aim to top that in 2007. I would like to pay tribute to Mr Mervyn Elder for having the vision five years ago to see what kickboxing has to offer the city and indeed the country. We at ProKick salute you Mr Mervyn Elder and the Belfast City council!"
For further information on kickboxing around the country call 028 9065 1074



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