David Pearce
Image caption David Pearce has been described as one of the most exciting and under-rated heavyweights of the 1980s

Friends and family of late boxer David Pearce have slept on park benches on Saturday as part of a bid to erect a statue for the former British champion.

Newport council is supporting efforts to raise £36,000 for a memorial to the one-time European heavyweight title challenger, who died in 2000, aged 41.

The statue is under construction and is due to be unveiled in December.

“Our sleepover is because David had to sleep on a park bench before a fight,” said his nephew Luke Pearce.

“In 1984, David was about to fight Lucian Rodriguez for the European title in France.

“But, due to an oversight, no-one booked him a hotel room so the night before the fight he and his father Wally both slept on a park bench.”

Image copyright Rob Santwris
Image caption The bronze statue of David Pearce will be situated on the banks of the River Usk

About 25 fans of “Bomber” Pearce, one of nine children who grew up in the Pill area of Newport, took to the city’s Belle Vue Park on Saturday night.

“People remember him training around town, like running up and down Belle Vue Park,” said Mr Pearce. “So it’s appropriate we hold the sleepover there.”

More than £25,000 has so far been raised for the bronze sculpture and Newport council has approved plans to locate the statue on the banks of the River Usk, opposite the city’s Friars Walk shopping development.

The former steelworker was widely regarded as one of the most exciting and under-rated heavyweights of the 1980s after beating Swansea’s Neville Meade to the British title in September 1983.

After his victory over Meade at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, Pearce said: “I did it for Newport.”

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Media captionArchive: Welsh boxer Pearce wins British title

“The guts he always showed came from his background,” said Mr Pearce.

“He was an ordinary Pill boy, but wherever he fought he did Newport proud.”

Despite sleeping on a park bench and suffering a broken hand, Pearce knocked down defending champion Rodriguez twice before losing on points.

He was linked with big fights against Buster Douglas and Leon Spinks but his career was cut short when brain scan irregularities led to his boxing licence being revoked by the British Boxing Board of Control.

Image caption David Pearce is the only fighter from Newport to win British boxing’s heavyweight title

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