Jersey boxing mourns death of coach Dave Thompson

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport

Tributes have been paid to the former head coach of Jersey Leonis Boxing Club, Dave Thompson, who died on Friday at the age of 67.

Thompson passed away at Jersey Hospice after losing his fight with cancer.

He coached at Leonis for 40 years and was named an MBE for his services to young people in 2006.

"It's hit us very hard because he was Mr Boxing over here and boxing was Dave Thompson," Kevin Baudains, who boxed and coached with Thompson, said.

"He's irreplaceable, and every person who went to the South Hill gym, Dave had an influence on them, they took something away based on what Dave gave them," Baudains told BBC Sport.

He was one of the first fighters that Thompson coached back in 1972 and carried the Olympic flame on his behalf in Jersey earlier this month after his illness prevented him from taking part in the torch relay.

"It was an honour, but it was so like Dave, even on his sick bed he was thinking of others.

"We'll make sure that Leonis Boxing Club will keep going and keep the good name of Dave Thompson going."

Jersey Leonis treasurer Mark Dunlop worked with Thompson for 23 years, first as a fighter, then as a coach and promoter, and was at his bedside in the final days before his death.

"When I arrived in Jersey 23 years ago from Belfast I was going nowhere.

"I came from Northern Ireland and he put me on the straight and narrow and installed discipline in me, his advice to me was life-changing to me."

As well as being a father figure to his fighters, he also worked as a guard at Jersey's La Moye prison and Dunlop says he used boxing to ensure young men moved away from a life of crime.

"He brought people to the gym from La Moye and really showed no animosity to them.

"As soon as they walked through the doors of the gym they were as good as anybody else and the lives he changed was unbelievable."

His views were echoed by the head of Jersey's Sports Council, Hugh Raymond, who admired Thompson's ability to, at times, keep the sport of boxing alive in the island almost single-handedly.

"He was one of those chaps that never gave in," Raymond told BBC Sport.

"He had the problems of the facilities for the boxers to put on shows but he always came through.

"Their fantastic gym at South Hill is totally down to him and in an area like Jersey, where other sports always seemed to come out on top, he had a struggle to keep boxing at the forefront of people's minds, but it was something he managed to do well."

It is hoped that a permanent memorial for Dave Thompson will be erected at South Hill gym.

A memorial service for him will be held at St Thomas' Church in St Helier in Thursday, 2 August at 14:30BST with a private cremation the following day.