There will always be a massive place in my heart for Errol as he was a huge star in my formative boxing years and billed as Britain’s answer to Sugar Ray Leonard. But more importantly, I was lucky enough to know a man for whom nobody had a bad word.
I watched him train at the old Thomas A’ Beckett gym with reverence as a teenager and both my father and I were temporarily inconsolable when he lost that infamous, epic grudge fight with Mark Kaylor at Wembley on Bonfire Night, 1985.
Despite his ultimate fortunes and unfulfilled potential in the paid ranks, Errol’s name will remain etched in immortality as one of the greatest young amateurs in British Boxing history. Winner of 11 National Titles for Coventry’s Triumph ABC, the 18-year old pugilist prodigy also took gold in the European Junior Championships before turning over with much fanfare and expectation, on a Saturday afternoon live on ITV, in November 1982.
After streaking to 13 straight victories (12 KOs) on terrestrial TV in the era when that meant mainstream stardom, an inadvisable pairing with dangerous Belgian light heavyweight, Jose Seys, brought Britain’s incumbent superstar crashing to a disastrous 46-second defeat in September 1984.
While he duly rebounded with more quick wins on ITV screens, something in Errol’s happy go lucky psyche seemed to have altered, along with a newfound reputation for fragility that would dog him until the end.
His finest performance arguably came to pass on the night of October 29, 1986, when he decisioned world class Irish American Southpaw Sean Mannion at the Alexandra Pavillion but Coventry’s finest fistic export will always be remembered for that classic up and downer with Kaylor and the alleged racial undertones that pervaded the affair. Both tasted the canvas in binary figures but the popular West Ham fighter was the last man standing as Christie’s aspirations of ultimate glory were permanently scuppered at 2 minutes and 35 seconds of the 8th round.
An extremely affable character who perhaps didn’t want to take life as seriously as Boxing constantly demanded, despite the inevitable sadness, I am extremely grateful to have seen Errol, 2 days before he passed at St. Christopher’s Hospice in South East London.
The detail that struck me when I left him last Friday evening was, despite the emaciated state of his once magnificent frame, he was still an absurdly good looking man with a light in his eyes.
But when he shook my hand and said, ‘Thanks, Ben, I’ll see you soon..’ I had a poignant feeling that it wouldn’t be the case.
My sincere condolences go out to his family and intimates. As Errol was fond of saying, ‘No Retreat, No Surrender.