By Kevin Francis, courtesy of The Daily Star
BOXING has lost a truly loveable character with the tragic death of gentle giant Gary Mason.
Former British heavyweight champion Gary was killed in a cycling accident in south London on Thursday at the age of 48.
He was one of the most likeable boxers it has ever been my pleasure to meet over the years.
I don’t think I ever heard anyone say anything against him and, likewise, neither did he bad-mouth anyone.
He was always approachable and helpful with no request, journalistic or otherwise, too much for him.
One of the most engaging boxers around, he still had a smile even when he fell on hard times for a spell after his ring career was over.
In the ring, he was very talented, but somewhat underrated in a career where his only defeat was against Lennox Lewis.
He fought 38 times, beginning with a first-round win over Al Malcolm in October 1984.
The Jamaican-born son of a carpenter then embarked on an unbeaten run of 28 fights that led to a tilt at the British title.
He gained a fourth-round win over Hughroy Currie early in 1989 to claim the title that had been vacated by Horace Notice.
Arguably the best win of his career came against the powerful Tyrell Biggs in October 1989.
Biggs had only two losses on his record at the time – against ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson and Francesco Damiani.
But Mason inflicted a third defeat on Biggs, punching his way to a great seventh-round knockout at the Royal Albert Hall.
Mason was then forced into a short retirement after suffering a detached retina in his right eye during a points win over Everett Martin in March 1990.
Then, after a comeback win over James Pritchard, he was pitched in with Lennox Lewis for the British and European titles in 1991.
It was a bout in which he frequently troubled Lewis, but the future world champ triumphed via a seventh-round stoppage.
Mason had two more contests – both in the States – after the Lewis fight, his last being in September 1994, going out with a win.
Yes, the boxing world will be a much poorer place without the gentle giant.