‘If ever I had a hero in my life then Jack was it’

Jack Bishop aged 21 in the Airborne Division
Jack Bishop aged 21 in the Airborne Division
Kirsty Craven with her five-month-old son Freddie at the house in Fisher Road, Bridgemary

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‘BOXING’S loss is heaven’s gain.’ That is just one of the heartfelt tributes paid to legendary city boxing trainer Jack Bishop, who has died aged 94.

He died peacefully in his sleep at his Fareham home on Sunday.

He made a huge contribution to the city’s boxing scene and captured hearts across Portsmouth.

Hailed as ‘Mr Boxing’, he guided 10 fighters to titles and made three British champions – helping countless others with his late best friend and fellow trainer Johnny Chapman by his side.

Many have lined up to say Jack was ‘so much more than a trainer’.

Bill Bessey, 43 from Leigh Park, was taken under Jack’s wing as a trainee between 2002 and 2008.

He said: ‘Jack was the greatest man I’ve ever had the honour to call my friend.

‘He was brilliant and he was an old-school trainer who never failed to say what he thought.

‘The stories he told could make a blockbuster movie.

‘When you sign with a gym you sign for three years and when I joined his, he said “son, I won’t be alive when the next signing comes along”.

‘How wrong he was – he was really funny. If I’ve ever had a hero in my life Jack was it.’

Former British Commonwealth and light-heavyweight boxing champion Tony Oakey was never trained by Jack, but knew him as a friend.

He said: ‘I had a cup of tea with Jack on a number of occasions and he was always a really nice, welcoming man.

‘The local boxing scene has gone from strength to strength and it’s thanks to people like Jack.

‘He helped so many youngsters go on to box professionally and gave them the opportunity to live out their dream – to achieve something they would remember for the rest of their lives.

‘He has done so much for the area. Boxing’s loss is heaven’s gain.

Mr Bishop’s daughter Patricia Kelly-Blyth said: ‘He was so kind and thoughtful – he really cared about his children.

‘Needless to say he enjoyed his boxing, but he also loved his garden.

‘He cared a lot about others. Everything feels blank knowing I don’t have my dad anymore.’

Jack was recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2014 – honoured with the British Empire Medal for his role as a boxing coach and promoter, aged 91.

Mr Bessey said he is in currently in talks with Jack’s family to take over his Southampton gym and rename it ‘Jack Bishop’s School of Boxing’.

Jack had an eventful life – serving in the first regiment of the SAS for the entirety of the Second World War.

He is survived by four children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.