Former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis says he respects the decision of his former promoter Frank Maloney to undergo a sex change.
Maloney, 61, who guided Lewis to the title, has told how she now lives as a woman called Kellie.
She told the Sunday Mirror: "I wasn't born into the right body, I have always known I was a woman. I can't keep living in the shadows."
The newspaper told in a six-page story how Kellie's unhappiness over her secret wish to be a woman ended her marriage, and she has no intention of looking for a relationship in her new life.
"At this very moment I am preparing to live the rest of my life as a single person," she says.
She says the boxing community can think whatever it wants about her now.
"I hope society will be open minded. I know I could have done my job in boxing as a female."
Lewis said: "I was just as shocked as anyone at the news about my former promoter and my initial thought was that it was a wind up. The great thing about life, and boxing, is that, day to day, you never know what to expect.
"This world we live in isn't always cut and dried or black and white, and coming from the boxing fraternity, I can only imagine what a difficult decision this must be for Kellie.
"However, having taken some time to read Kellie's statements, I understand better what she, and others in similar situations, are going through. I think that ALL people should be allowed to live their lives in a way that brings them harmony and inner peace.
"I respect Kellie's decision and say that if this is what brings about true happiness in her life, than so be it."
Maloney announced his intention to call time on his 30-year career with immediate effect last October.
His decision brought an end to a colourful career which saw him guide Lewis to glory despite memorably being derided as a ''mental midget'' by US promoter Don King.
Lewis said on Twitter when Maloney retired: ''Big up 2 Frank Maloney on a massive career in the fight game. Gonna miss those Union Jack suits. All the best to u and urs.''
Maloney's garish suits might have earned him fame as Lewis's sidekick, but his jovial image belied a shrewd boxing brain as he swerved King's obstacles to lead Lewis to the top.
Maloney told the Press Association when he retired: ''Boxing has given me some great times but it's not the same business I grew to love any more.
''The characters have gone and gradually over the last six months I have realised that I don't want to be involved in it any more.
''I am now going to go travelling through Europe with my two Airedales and see how far I can get. You never know, in six months I might miss it, but I know now it is the right time to finish.''