IT WAS an emotional afternoon as a memorial remembering professional boxers and their careers was unveiled.
Family, friends and fans of 10 boxers from Portsmouth attended a ceremony yesterday to see the memorial unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor Ken Ellcome and current English light-heavyweight champion Joel McIntyre, from Leigh Park.
More than 100 people gathered outside the Civic Offices to snap pictures and remember the boxers who fought between 1910 and 1960.
As previously reported in The News, the idea for the memorial came from author Andrew Fairley. Helped by the community, he raised £4,600 to make it a reality.
Johnnie Smith was at the unveiling as his dad Johnny Smith, who fought in the 1950s, was one of the boxers on the memorial.
He said: ‘It has been emotional to see dad on there. It is unbelievable to see it completed. Just having it here at Guildhall Square, such a prominent place in the city, is amazing and will raise the profiles of the men.’
The memorial was created by Alver-Stones in Fratton and, as a surprise for the families, the firm made separate plaques of the boxers as a gift.
Grandchildren and great-great grandchildren of boxer Billy Streets attended and said the smaller plaques were a wonderful idea.
Trevor Streets, one of Billy’s grandsons, said: ‘It’s amazing to see our grandad on the memorial. He was so well-known in his day – you could walk into a barber and ask for a Billy Streets haircut. His story will carry on thanks to this memorial.’
Fellow grandson Don Marsh added: ‘This has been a long time coming and it’s all thanks to Andrew. There are so many families here which is great to see and they all appreciate what this memorial means.’
Just having it here at Guildhall Square, such a prominent place in the city, is amazingJohnnie Smith
Andrew said it was wonderful to see such a big crowd which included council leader Donna Jones, Portsmouth South Labour MP Stephen Morgan, former MP Flick Drummond and Cllr Frank Jonas.
‘Boxing is such a popular sport and always has been in Portsmouth,’ he said.
‘I am not surprised so many people came because these boxers were stars at the time. It is important we remember them and share their stories.’