"FIGHTING preacher" Ken Lawrence, regarded as one of the finest boxers Southampton ever produced, has died at the age of 82.

Born in the city in 1932, Mr Lawrence represented his country at the sport and won dozens of professional fights in his career.

At his peak, the featherweight held the title of champion of Great Britain having fought some of the greats of his era at his weight including Charlie Hill, Hogan Kid Bassey and Sammy McCarthy.

Having turned professional in 1951 he later travelled to Australia for a three-bout contract and became Southern Area professional champion in the UK.

In 1956 the Daily Echo reported how he held the record for the fastest knock-out in amateur boxing history – 11 seconds including the count.

We also reported how people who lived near his then home in Thornhill would call him the “Leather Saint” and the “fighting preacher” due to his work in the local Sunday school.

He was known for never training on a Sunday, banning swear words in his changing rooms and refraining from smoking, drinking and betting.

Mr Lawrence also become a lay preacher at what is now Peartree Green United Reformed Church in Woolston where he and wife Dorothy met and were married.

He retired in 1957 with his father-trainer Charles admitting that his son had “got as high as he will get” in his career.

His brother Brian, himself once a successful jockey winning the Welsh Grand National in 1958, told the Daily Echo: “He was always laughing and joking and was a very easy person to get along with.

“I was very proud of Ken as he was champion of Great Britain.

“He was quite modest about it but I think it was a great achievement as was representing his country abroad.”

Mr Lawrence, of North Baddesley, passed away recently after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. He leaves a widow Dorothy, son Peter and daughter Angela.

A funeral will take place on Monday, February 3, at Peartree Green United Reformed Church.