When Alan Minter was named King Of The World in 1980, Crawley pulled out all the stops to celebrate the town’s greatest sporting son.
Okay, so he was actually World Middleweight Champion and not King Of The World but the 20,000 people who turned out that March to welcome him home from Las Vegas didn’t care.
He was a local lad who had put Crawley on the map – so they promptly set the big man’s bottom lip trembling by chanting his name over and over as he waved to them in Queens Square.
The Crawley & District Observer’s sports editor of the day was Robin Williams who, no doubt to the envy of his colleagues, was put on a plane and flown out for a ringside seat in Caesar’s Palace where he saw Minter beat Vito Antuofermo.
Clearly the Observer’s allowance for staff expenses was a lot more generous than it is today...
After becoming the first British boxer to win a title in America for 60 years, Minter told Williams: “The reception I have had from Crawley has made all the efforts worthwhile. I aim to be a busy champion and, with the backing of the people of Crawley, aim to keep my title for some time.”
The reception I have had from Crawley has made all the efforts worthwhileAlan Minter
And keep it he did, at least for six months. He had a rematch with Antuofermo at Wembley Arena, retaining his crown by a technical knockout in the eighth round.
The dream ended that September when Marvin Hagler came to London and beat him in three rounds.
Not that the people of Crawley cared – to them he would always be The Champ. Or The Guv’nor, as he later opened a restaurant in one of the oldest and most impressive buildings in the High Street – the Ancient Priors.
Alan Minter, who learned his trade at Crawley Boxing Club, retired from the ring with a record of 39 wins, nine losses and one no contest.
Twenty-three of his wins came via knockouts.
When it came to boxing, the name Minter was on people’s lips once again when his son, Ross, turned professional in 2001, aged 22.
He retired at the age of 30 with 17 wins under his belt, including eight knockouts.
Yes, Crawley can be rightfully proud of it’s sporting stars.
Sixteen years after Minter ruled the world, Gareth Southgate showed true grit by stepping up to take the decisive penalty for England in the semi-finals of Euro ‘96.
He missed, England were out and Gareth spent weeks and weeks appearing in Pizza Hut adverts with a paper bag on his head.
You can’t win ‘em all.
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