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Hugh Russell dies at 63: Irish boxing champion passes away following short illness as friends and colleagues pay tribute to the 'champ' with the 'cheeky grin'

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  • Hugh Russell has been fondly remembered following his death at the age of 63
  • Russell was a prominent boxer as a young man before going into photography
  • Ex-boxer Carl Frampton was among those to pay tribute to Russell on Friday 

Hugh Russell, who won a medal in boxing at the 1980 Olympic Games, has died at the age of 63. 

The Irishman passed away following a battle with illness and he has been remembered fondly by peers and close friends. 

Russell’s crowning moment came at the 1980 Moscow Games where he took bronze for Ireland after wins over Iraq‘s Samit Khiniab, Tanzania’s Emmanuel Mlundwa, and North Korea‘s Yo Ryon-Sik. 

Beaten in the semi-finals by Bulgarian Petar Lesov, who would go on to win gold, Russell returned a hero for Ireland.

After boxing he turned his hand to photography and got a job working for the Irish News newspaper. 

Hugh Russell (middle, pictured in 1980 after winning Olympic bronze) has died at the age of 63

Hugh Russell (middle, pictured in 1980 after winning Olympic bronze) has died at the age of 63

Russell (right) reached the 1980 Olympic semi-finals by beating North Korea 's Yo Ryon-Sik

Russell (right) reached the 1980 Olympic semi-finals by beating North Korea ‘s Yo Ryon-Sik

Russell was hailed for his 'cheeky grin' as ex-boxers and newspaper colleagues paid tribute

Russell was hailed for his ‘cheeky grin’ as ex-boxers and newspaper colleagues paid tribute

Paul McConville, the newspaper’s sports editor, said of Russell on Friday: ‘Champion boxer and top-class photographer but a friend and colleague who was always on hand to lend some sage advice or lighten the mood with a wise crack and that cheeky grin. RIP Champ.’

Russell, known as ‘the great son of Belfast’, burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old when he won flyweight bronze at the 1978 Commonwealth Games. 

‘I’ve just heard the sad news that Hugh Russell passed away,’ fellow boxer Carl Frampton said. 

‘As a BBBoC (British Boxing Board of Control) member and an ex boxer, he always had the fighters’ best interest at heart. One of the nicest men you could meet. RIP Hughie.’ 

Boxing Ireland wrote their own tribute, adding: ‘RIP Hugh Russell Snr. An absolute gentleman and legend inside and outside the ring. I know myself, Dennis and Stephen would definitely not have been able to put on any of the shows in Belfast without his help, support and encouragement, a massive loss to the boxing community.’

The Irishman pictured in action during his boxing career, throwing a punch at Stuart Shaw

The Irishman pictured in action during his boxing career, throwing a punch at Stuart Shaw

Russell (left, pictured in 2011) became a photographer after boxing and is fondly remembered

Russell (left, pictured in 2011) became a photographer after boxing and is fondly remembered