By Paul Moon
Later today at the Swansea Crematorium, Wales will bid farewell to an adopted son. Neville Meade was born in Jamaica (12 September 1948) but migrated to Britain where he served in the Royal Air Force at Catterick. He won both the ABA heavyweight title and the Commonwealth Gold Medal in 1974, leaving his mark in boxing history.
No one is quite sure how Neville came to make Swansea his home. In the early 1970s he experienced racist insults before finding fame but never rose to the foolish abuse, in fact he helped break down these barriers by promoting diversity. Apart from his boxing, Neville contributed further to society by helping children with learning difficulties.
He was a ‘hit or get hit’ type of boxer, often blowing up before round six. In his last 21 fights only two of them went the distance. He treated training with a casual disregard and was reluctant to put in the hard yards needed for success. His laidback manner was typically Caribbean and this further compromised his boxing. His attention often turned to golf and cricket matters (he played Durham County League cricket for Tudhoe in the 1970s) and one can only imagine the difficulty his trainers would have had with his motivation and concentration.
His boxing record illustrated this lack of conviction. In 34 fights, Neville won 20 (KO 18) and lost 13 (KO 9) with one drawn. Clearly, he was a fighter who packed a devastating punch but his lack of preparation let him down. For years, he treaded water before combining with a special person who helped change his fortunes.
That significant moment came when trainer Jimmy Bromfield (trainer of four British champions) took responsibility of Neville’s fitness and training out of Colin Breen’s gym in Sandfields, Swansea. He took the job on the understanding that the boxer would get fit, and Meade responded. He had previously been overweight and fighting at well over 17 stone. Under the Bromfield stewardship Meade won four fights on the trot (all knockouts) beating David Pearce, Winston Allen, Stan McDermott and Terry Mintus before weighing in at 16st 3lbs (the fittest he had been in years) against Gordon Ferris for the British Heavyweight title on 12 October 1981.
After just two-minutes 45-seconds of round one, Meade surprised everyone in the packed Aston Villa Leisure Centre when he knocked out the favourite and holder of the title. After setting up Ferris with a left jab he swung a thumping right hand over the top, something the team had been working on in training. For some reason referee Mike Jacobs started the count but Ferris was out cold before hitting the canvas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jktICgUbmmI
After this exhilarating win Neville became Britain’s oldest first time champ and Terry Lawless, the London boxing promoter, quickly signed him up, breaking the successful Bromfield–Meade partnership. Things did not go well and Neville’s career stalled before ending on September 1983 when he lost a rematch to ‘Bomber’ David Pearce.
Regrettably once his boxing career ended Neville Meade’s life went into a downward spiral and he descended into alcoholism. His struggle with life ended when he lost his battle to cancer and he died on 13th March 2010 aged 61 at the Ty Olwen Hospice in his adopted home of Swansea. Jimmy Bromfield echoed our thoughts when he paid tribute by saying, “He was a gentleman blessed with humility and I was proud to be part of his life."