The McAteer children grew up seeing a reminder of their father's British boxing championship on the mantel, the prized Lonsdale Belt — made of gold adorned with porcelain medallions.

The late Pat McAteer won the belt and defended it twice, making it his to keep. But this week, the family heirloom was stolen. Somebody broke into the Annapolis-area home of his son, also named Pat McAteer, and stole items including the safe that held the belt.

"This was his greatest achievement in sports. To get it is a really big deal in England," said Will McAteer, Pat McAteer's brother. "The sentimental value to our family is priceless."

The elder Pat McAteer grew up outside Liverpool, England, and won the British middleweight championship in 1955. He successfully defended it in 1956 and 1957, before losing his title in 1958 and moving to America. He lived in several places in the United States, spending the last years of his life in Virginia. Shortly before his death at age 77 in 2009, his son Pat brought the prized belt, which had spent several decades in a safe deposit box, to his Annapolis home. He laid it in his safe, a heavy 2-foot cube.

But burglars broke in around midday Thursday, removing his wife's jewelry and the safe, Pat McAteer said.

According to the British Boxing Hall of Fame's website, Lord Lonsdale introduced the Lonsdale Belt as a new trophy in 1909 for the British champion at each weight division.

The McAteer family is offering a $5,000 reward for the return or information leading to the return of the belt. Anne Arundel County Police Maj. Thomas Wilson said an investigation into the break-in is under way, and asked that anyone with information call Eastern District detectives at 410-222-6145.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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