DEAN FRANCIS has died after a courageous battle with cancer at the age of just 44.
A boxer of exceptional talent, Francis – who campaigned at super-middleweight, light-heavyweight and cruiserweight – fell foul to incessant injuries and bad luck, his haul of English, British, European and Commonwealth titles certainly deserved a world belt for company.
Francis halted the likes of Frederic Seillier, David Starie, Ovil McKenzie and, in the British fight of 2008, Tony Oakey. He would name his seventh round victory over Cornelius Carr in 1997, before the injuries set in, as his most impressive performance.
It was in the days leading to that British light-heavyweight and Commonwealth title victory over Oakey that Francis met his future wife, Ghalia, with whom he would later have a son, Rocco.
He embarked on a comeback in 2012, which culminated in a painful 12-round loss to Bob Ajisafe. Francis would later say he knew as early as the second round of that bout that his days as a boxer were over.
In retirement he was haunted by his failure to contest a world title, until last year, when the news of cancer turned his world upside down. Courageously he declared he would beat the disease, seeking out alternative medicines despite being told his days were numbered.
Francis was a fighter until the end. In his final days he was visited by Chris Eubank, Joe Calzaghe and Nigel Benn. He will be sorely missed, yet he will always be an inspiration to all who knew him.
Our thoughts are with Ghalia and Rocco, and all his friends and family.