Dean Francis: Former European champion boxer dies aged 44

Bristol boxer Dean Francis has been diagnosed with terminal cancer

Former European super-middleweight champion Dean Francis has died at the age of 44 - with some of the biggest names in British boxing paying tribute.

Bristol-based Francis was diagnosed with terminal cancer in January 2017.

He also won the Commonwealth light-heavyweight title before retiring with a record of 34 wins and five defeats.

His promoter Chris Sanigar said: "It puts things into perspective. An amazing talent curtailed by injury and now to pass at only 44."

Francis, who was given four months to live when he was diagnosed, had been touted to win a world title and received support from three former world champions.

Sanigar added to BBC Points West: "Thankfully I've seen him twice this week. Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Joe Calzaghe visited him last week.

"He was outstanding. I think he'll always be remembered. It was only when people saw him and stood in front of him that they fully realised what a powerful figure he was."

'He would've won the world title'

After winning the European and British super-middleweight titles, Francis suffered a career-threatening shoulder injury in 1998.

He returned to the ring in 2002 and continued to fight until March 2014, losing to Bob Ajisafe in his final bout.

Calzaghe, who retired with an undefeated record in 2008, fought Francis at amateur level in 1991 and paid tribute while he was undergoing chemotherapy.external-link

"I believe he would've won the world title if he didn't damage his shoulder," he said.

The news comes on the same day that boxing trainer Brendan Ingle died.

Dean Francis
Dean Francis (l) beat Frederic Seillier to win the European super-middleweight title in 1997

British heavyweight Tony Bellew: Hearing the news about Brendan Ingle and Dean Francis is truly heartbreaking. My thoughts are with all family and friends of both men at these difficult times.

Former world lightweight champion Anthony Crolla: Such sad news. A great fighter, if it wasn't for injuries earlier in his career I'm told he would have been a world champion.

Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn: My family and all at Matchroom send our deepest condolences to the family of Dean Francis, a great fighter and a lovely man.