'A TOUGH man in the ring, but soft on the inside,' -- those are a son's moving words about his former boxing champion father who died this week at his Preston home.

As a renowned Irish boxing champ Maurice Loughran, of Sulby Drive, Ribbleton, was well known for his achievements in the ring in the 1950s.

In his heyday Maurice boxed at the highest level on 30 separate occasions against some of the world's top contenders at his weight and was on the same bill as former world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at one event.

Born in Monaghan, Ireland, his first major achievment was to become Ulster senior welterweight champion in 1952.

He became the Irish light-middleweight champion in 1955 and the Irish middleweight champion in both 1956 and 1960. In 1958 he also won the light-heavyweight title.

Paddy Turley, editor of the Northern Standard newspaper, in Monaghan, said Maurice devoted much of his time to teaching young children to box in the ring.

He added: "He was very well thought of in Monaghan. People here will be very sorry to hear of his death."

At the end of his boxing career Maurice moved to Preston, where the family had relatives, and worked as a printer at CCA, in Eastway. In the 1970s he helped run an Irish social club in the city centre.

His son, Barry, from Chester, said: "My dad was well known and very popular in the local community. He would always crack a joke and have a chat."

Maurice died on Saturday, May 10, after a long illness, aged 71.

A requiem mass was due take place at St Maria Goretti RC Church, Ribbleton, on Thursday, May 15, followed by interment at Our Lady and St Michael's Church, near Longridge.

He leaves a wife Elizabeth, three children Mary, Barry and Brenda and seven grandchildren.