It took rare courage to step into a boxing ring at just two days notice to take on the formidable Nigel Benn on his rise to become WBO Middleweight Champion of the World and then WBC Super Middleweight champ.
But back in 1987, Manchester’s Eddie Smith did just that against an opponent who was unbeaten in his previous six fights – none of which went the distance.
It was the last of Eddie’s 45 fights. And if the first round knock-out wasn’t responsible for ending his boxing career, a very serious car accident soon afterwards – which almost cost the fighter his sight and left him with serious head injuries – certainly was.
More than 30 years on, Eddie is still recognised around town. His fight record is still remembered and admired, not least by staff at the Booth Centre in Manchester.
That’s where Fighting Fit run programmes to help people will mental health and homelessness issues.
A recent guest of honour at one of their Monday sessions, Jamaican-born Eddie came to Manchester with his parents, two brothers and five sisters at the age of ten.
He’d started boxing aged six but was at school in Manchester when he joined the gym in Collyhurst and later Moston run by Brian Hughes, “the Godfather of Manchester boxing” .
Eddie turned professional early, reasoning that if he was going to get hit in the ring he was going to get paid for it. He made his debut at Liverpool”s Adelphi Hotel in 1976 and fought many of his early bouts in venues like the Manchester’s New Century Hall and Hotel Piccadilly.
One of his proudest moments came with a points victory at the Royal Albert Hall over Tony Sibson, who later challenged Marvin Hagler for a world middleweight title, knocking out the German champion in Cologne and scoring a victory at Caesar’s Palace in Los Angeles.
Eddie became friends with famous American boxing promoter Don King and speaks highly of former commentators Harry Carpenter and Reg Gutteridge.
Dr Amy Blakemore from Manchester University and Adam Taylor, head boxing coach at Fighting Fit, have been working on a programme to help people with their mental health through boxing. With their support and knowledge, Eddie will be attending a 10 week course to help combat his struggles and get him fitter not only physically but mentally.
A crowd-funded Just Giving page has been set up to raise £400 to support Eddie. He was recently gifted a pair of signed boxing gloves by former world champion and current challenger Anthony Crolla.