Len Woodhall, father and coach of ex-world champion Richie dies, 75

Richie and Len Woodhall
Richie Woodhall returned to his roots with father Len to Telford's Woodside housing estate in 2011 as part of the BBC's Domesday Reloaded project.

Len Woodhall, who coached his son Richie to become Shropshire's first world boxing champion in March 1998, has died, at the age of 75.

Woodhall Sr, who originally hailed from Birmingham before moving to Telford, coached in boxing for over 40 years.

His finest hour came at Telford Ice Rink when he was in the corner for Richie's WBC super-middleweight title win over Sugar Boy Malinga.

But he coached another 65 champions from schoolboy to world level.

Woodhall Sr was a labourer by profession, but his love of boxing became ingrained in his son, helping to inspire a future champion from Telford's Woodside housing estate.

Woodhall Jr won an Olympic bronze medal as an amateur at Seoul in 1988 before turning professional after winning a Commonwealth gold medal in Auckland two years later.

He then lost just three times in 29 fights: his first shot at the world title against American Keith Holmes in Washington DC in October 1996, when he tried to fight with a broken hand, when he lost his WBC crown in his third defence to German Markus Beyer in Telford in October 1999 and his last fight - against Joe Calzaghe for the world WBO title in Sheffield in December 2000. And Woodhall Sr was by his side for all of it.

BBC tributes to a real fight game character

BBC Radio Shropshire sports editor James Bond

"There's a tale that, one Christmas, Len took Richie aside and said 'There's no turkey dinner for you. You've got a fight coming up'.

"He presented Richie with a piece of toast and a cup of instant soup. Then he said, 'I tell you what, I'll have a soup for my dinner too'. That's dedication - on both sides.

"There was clearly a huge bond between father and son as Richie went on to a top boxing and media career. There was none prouder than Len.

"But, from those early Woodside days, Len also had a mission - to keep youngsters on the straight and narrow through the strict regime of boxing. And he was loved and looked up to by so many.

"As a teenager, who had a self-confessed misspent youth, Len was once picked to play football for England schoolboys. But he turned to boxing. And that was the making of him - and under him, so many others."

BBC Sport's Ged Scott

"My lasting memory of Len is the day myself, then a Shropshire Star reporter, our photographer Andy Compton and Radio Shropshire's then sports editor Sean Fogarty rolled up one Friday afternoon at the Inter-Continental Hotel, Hamburg, having driven to cover Richie's scheduled European title fight the next night.

"The first people, we met, as we negotiated the hotel's revolving doors, were Len and Richie's trainer Terry Lawless.

"Len's face rapidly broke into that huge trademark, lopsided grin. 'What are you doing here, lads? Fight's off,' he said.

"To looks of stunned silence, and as quick-witted as ever, he added: 'If you set off back now, you'll just catch the night ferry.'

"The fight was indeed cancelled by the promoter, whose ambitious black-tie dinner-show, with violinist Vanessa Mae joint top of the bill, had not sold enough tickets. Instead, with Len on lead vocals, a willing pianist in the hotel foyer to accompany him, and fuelled by the odd stein of German lager, he brought smiles to a lot of faces by memorably turning the evening into a good old-fashioned singsong."

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