Lonsdale Belt for ex-boxing champion Dai Dower

Dai Dower
Image caption Dai Dower with his Lonsdale Belt after defeating Eric Marsden on points to take the British title

A former boxing champion has received a new Lonsdale Belt to replace one he won more than 50 years ago.

Dai Dower, 78, who is from south Wales but lives in Bournemouth, held British, European and Empire flyweight titles before retiring at the age of 25.

He was forced to give up his Lonsdale Belt, awarded to British champions, when called up for national service.

But his friends at Bournemouth ex-Boxers' Association have been raising funds and bought him a replacement.

Mr Dower, who was born in Abercynon, was presented with the belt at a ceremony in Bournemouth on Saturday.

British champions can keep their Lonsdale Belt, named after Lord Lonsdale with origins dating back to 1909, if they successfully defend their title twice.

Mr Dower was British champion but few other fighters were considered good enough to challenge him and he was eventually forced to give up his belt when he joined the Army.

"It upset me when it happened 50 years ago but it's just one of those things that happens," he said.

"The idea was to give it back to me when I came out of the Army but they didn't.

"I came to Bournemouth and I never thought about it until the boys here [at Bournemouth ex-Boxers' Association] asked me about it."

'Really excited'

Earlier, Mr Dower said he was grateful to his friends for their fundraising efforts.

Image caption Dai Dower was in south Wales in 2009 for a tribute to boxer Freddie Welsh

"I must say I'm really excited about it. The boys have done well for me," he said.

Former amateur boxer and Bournemouth ex-Boxers' Association member John Dickinson said the idea came last summer from a conversation with Mr Dower.

"We had a reunion and we asked him to bring his belt and he said he hadn't got one," said Mr Dickinson.

"We asked him why not and he said he had a belt but they asked for it back because he went in to the services. There was nobody suitable for him to defend it so they took it back.

"As an association we thought we should do something."

Lifelong friend and Rhondda Cynon Taf councillor Albert (Alby) Davies, who will present the belt, said Mr Dower was a fantastic boxer.

'Absolutely class'

"He was the most classical and elusive boxer I have ever seen in my life," said Mr Davies, who used to box himself and sparred with his friend.

"He had quick feet, quick hands - ducking and weaving he was absolutely class. He was on his own."

Mr Dower held British, Empire and European flyweight titles and also fought for a world title but lost to Pascual Perez in Argentina in 1957.

After his boxing career, Mr Dower, who is married to Evelyn, taught sport at Ringwood Grammar School in Bournemouth and at Bournemouth University.

He was awarded an MBE in 1998 for his work at the university.

He was back in Rhondda Cynon Taf in 2009 to to unveil a plaque in Pontypridd to another champion boxer, Freddie Welsh, who was known as the Welsh Wizard.

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