Moscow Olympic bronze medalist Hugh “Little Red” Russell is being laid to rest in his native Belfast today, following his passing last week.
Hugh began his illustrious amateur career at Holy Family Golden Gloves, Belfast, and claimed innumerable Antrim, Ulster and Irish titles as he rose to Senior Elite.
He boxed for Northern Ireland at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmond, Canada, and came home with bronze. It was in the 1980 Olympics that be became, at that time, Ireland’s 6th Olympic boxing medalist:
Round of 32: Defeated Samir Khiniab (Iraq) on points, 5-0
Round of 16: Defeated Emmanuel Mlundwa (Tanzania) on points, 5-0
Quarterfinal: Defeated Yo Ryon-Sik (North Korea) on points, 3-2
Semifinal: Lost to Peter Lessov (Bulgaria) on points, 0-5 (was awarded bronze medal)
Hugh moved into the professional boxing ranks where he won two British titles in Bantamweight and Flyweight. He was the first boxer to win a British title at both divisions in that order.
In October 1982 he defeated Davy Larmour at the Ulster Hall to win the Irish Bantamweight title. The fight was also a final eliminator for the British Bantamweight title.
In 1983 he fought in the last ever 15 round British title fight before retiring in 1985 as the undefeated British flyweight champion.
Hugh moved on to work as a multi-award winning press photographer, latterly with the Irish News. He was also a Chief Official in the British Boxing Board of Control, overseeing many big fight nights in Belfast. In 2019 he was inducted into the Belfast City Council sporting hall of fame.
Hugh will be laid to rest today, following Funeral Mass at St Patrick’s Church in Donegall Street, followed by cremation at 2pm at Newtownabbey Crematorium.
Hugh is survived by his wife Kathy, children Hugh, Hayley, James and Calum, and grandchildren Aodhan, Archie, Charlie and Freya.
Following Hugh’s sad passing overnight, tributes are being paid across the world of Irish Boxing:
Aside from being a great of Irish boxing, Hugh was a genuinely nice guy – he had a kind word for everyone, and was highly regarded throughout the boxing family. He will be sorely missed. My condolences to his loved ones. May he Rest in Peace.IABA President, Gerry O’Mahony
Hugh will be fondly remembered by all in the sport in Ireland and will be sadly missed.County Antrim Boxing Board.
My first two memories of boxing as a kid were Ali fighting Larry Holmes and Hugh winning his bronze medal. Especially the Russian announcer pronouncing his name! Hugh was the man who started the modern success of Irish Olympic Boxing . His passing is very sad news – IABA extends its deepest condolences to his family and friends.Niall O’Carroll, Chair of the IABA Board of Directors.