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Boxer Mason dies in bike accident

The boxing world has paid tribute to former British heavyweight champion Gary Mason after he was killed in a bicycle crash.

Mason, 48, was cycling near his flat in Wallington, south London, early on Thursday morning when he was in a collision with a white van. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The 43-year-old driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and bailed pending further inquiries.

Mason, known as a hard-hitting fighter with a strong chin, was British champion from January 1989 to March 1991. He also led a remarkable life after boxing, involving rugby league, arm-wrestling and therapeutic drumming.

The Jamaican-born boxer won 37 of his 38 professional bouts - including 34 by knockout - during a career which lasted from 1984 to 1994. His only loss came against the up-and-coming future world champion Lennox Lewis at Wembley Arena.

Frank Bruno, Mason's stable-mate under Terry Lawless, said: "We used to spar together in the early days. Gary was probably a better technical boxer than me, although I had more determination. I'm very sorry about his death, particularly the circumstances of how it happened. Both of us were plying our trade at an early age and I had a lot of respect for the guy."

Mason was on the brink of a world title bid and favourite to win when he came up against the 25-year-old Lewis. But he had suffered a detached retina from a previous fight and Lewis punished the eye, opening up a cut. The referee was forced to stop the contest in the seventh round.

Boxing promoter Frank Maloney said: "I'm very sad. It's a great loss, not just to boxing but to life in general. He was always a happy guy with a smile on his face. Even if things were going wrong for him, he cheered other people up. He was one of the nice guys of boxing. And he did great work for charity. People don't realise the amount of work he did for charity."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said on Friday: "Officers were alerted at about 6.15am yesterday to a van in collision with a bicycle on Sandy Lane South, near the junction with Woodcote Road, Wallington. The cyclist, aged 48 years, was pronounced dead at the scene."

A post-mortem examination will be held at St Helier Hospital mortuary and an inquest will be opened at Croydon Coroner's Court. Any witnesses are urged to call officers from the road death investigation unit at Hampton on 020 8941 9011.

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