Former boxer compared feet with Prince Philip during visit to club

prince philip at west ham boxing club

David Abbott meets Prince Philip during his visit to West Ham Boxing Club in 1982. - Credit: David Abbott

A former boxer has recalled the time he made Prince Philip laugh when the royal dropped into the club.

David Abbott was a teenager when the Duke of Edinburgh visited West Ham Boxing Club in 1982.

Back then the venue was at the back of the Black Lion pub in Plaistow, but it is now in London Road.

Prince Philip meets Terry Spinks

Prince Philip is introduced to 1956 Olympic flyweight gold medallist Terry Spinks by George Minney. The gloves used to win the gold are in the background. - Credit: George Minney

The boxers were training when the duke dropped in on a visit kept under wraps over security concerns about the Royal Family and public figures in the days of IRA terror attacks.

"He was alright. He was quite funny. None of us knew the etiquette. [Fellow boxer] Brian shook his hand when he should have bowed," David said.

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Australian Brian Butler remembered saying G'day to the prince, before the two laughed and the duke reminisced about his time Down Under, playing polo near the home of Brian's parents.

Brian said: "It was an amazing experience and he was such an amazingly nice down to earth bloke.

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"Although he lived a long, full and obviously grand life it was very sad to hear of him passing."

Asked what was most memorable about his brush with royalty, David recalled the prince's feet.

The duke laughed when a young David - who at one time was tipped to join Great Britain's Olympic team at the 1984 games in Los Angeles - pointed out a sizeable difference between them.

"I said: 'He's got bigger feet than me.' I had size 11. He sort of laughed and carried on.

"He was a nice guy. He didn't get in the ring. He went around and talked to a few of us. We didn't really think much of it at the time.

"If he would have been a world champion boxer it might have been different then. But now I'm proud to have met him," David said.

The meeting is captured in a treasured photo kept through the years, which shows a smiling Prince Philip chatting to a young David.

Born in Stratford, the 56-year-old West Ham United fan now lives in Suffolk.

David was a member of West Ham Boxing Club for five years. He introduced former professional boxer Nigel Benn to the club. 

No stranger to the Recorder, David appeared in the paper in the 80s posing with cauliflowers on each side of his head in tribute to the impact of boxing on his ears and his then job as a greengrocer.

On the death of Prince Philip, David said: "It's sad. He has done a lot for the country. He was a good guy as far as I'm concerned."

As to who would have triumphed in the ring, David, who represented London and Essex in the sport, pulled no punches.

"I would probably have got arrested. I wouldn't imagine he would have won," David said.

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