Newport's David 'Bomber' Pearce prepares for his 1982 British heavyweight final eliminator against Gordon Ferris original black & white 8" x 10" press photo alongside his trainer, advisor, biggest fan and above all, his father Wally Pearce.
"Pearce has won the fight and Pearce has gone berserk, he can hardly believe it!" "23 year old David Pearce, the Bomber they call him from Newport and he has bombed Ferris out of the British heavyweight race!" "Well that was one of the most savagely, raw, attacking performances we have seen from a British Heavyweight in many years. That's a little bit like the old days of Dick Richardson and he came from Newport too!" – Reg Gutteridge. Post - David Pearce Final eliminator at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
David Pearce: Immortal Warrior
By Paul Zanon - 22nd June 2018
David Pearce died at the tragically young age of 41, but the former British and Welsh heavyweight champion remains a legend in his Newport hometown. Now a statue has been unveiled to inspire future generations...
The late Welsh heavyweight David Pearce was widely regarded as a British champion who never fulfilled his potential.
Now his family has ensured his name will be remembered by future generations in Pearce’s hometown of Newport.
Pearce’s nephew, Luke, commissioned a bronze statue of his uncle in 2014 and it was unveiled in the city centre in June.
“Newport City Council has been fully behind the initiative,” Luke told Boxing Monthly. “They realised it wasn’t just about David Pearce and the Pearce family, it’s about inspiring youngsters to achieve something.
“If two or three youngsters are able to make something of their lives or steer on the right track as a result, then we’ve achieved something massive.”
Luke, a decorated military officer who won services titles, said Pearce was an inspiration in his own life.
Pearce was born into a family steeped in boxing. His father, Wally, boxed in the army and in boxing booths, and six of the seven Pearce brothers boxed professionally.
Standing just over six feet and weighing around 196lbs, Pearce turned professional in 1978, shortly after his 19th birthday. His style was to go forward and look to land heavy blows. He won his first bout in 38 seconds. Within 11 months Pearce had compiled a 9-0 (6 KOs) record.
Pearce was referred to as a “real-life Rocky”, Luke said. “If you go to the Newport Transporter Bridge, there’s a painting of him and a written statement there to say he used to run up and down those stairs, but I don’t think he based his training on the Rocky movies.
“David used to run with weights on his ankles around the docks and the transporter steps. He also used to run at Belle Vue Park, in Newport which was very hilly.”
Pearce challenged Neville Meade for the Welsh heavyweight title in only his 10th fight but lost in two rounds.
Bouncing back with gusto, Pearce racked up three victories, before coming up against a man many had warned would be a step too far — future World light heavyweight champion Dennis Andries.
“David was supposed to be fighting Stewart Lithgow, who then pulled out,” Luke said. “Around the same time, Andries found himself without an opponent, eight weeks into his training camp. So they decided to fight, but on the condition that David would come down in weight.
“David had to lose a lot of weight in a week to meet the 190lbs limit,” Luke said. “Andries told him: ‘I’ve knocked your brother (Raymond) out and now I’m going to knock you out.’
“David was always nice and charming and said with a smile on his face: ‘OK. We’ll see. No problem.’”
Pearce won in the seventh round, one of only three fighters to stop the tough Andries.
Not long after, Pearce got the opportunity to spar with former British champion Joe Bugner at the Thomas A Becket gym in London. “They had a good session and David caught him in the ribs good and proper,” Pearce’s brother, Nigel, related.
Bugner said: ‘You’ve got a lot of balls!’ (referring to the body blow) but David more than held his own as Bugner tried his own onslaught. The fact is, David and Bugner were supposed to fight, but after that day it never materialised.”
Pearce became British heavyweight champion at 23, stopping his old nemesis Neville Meade in the ninth round. To this day he remains Newport, Gwent and Monmouthshire’s only British heavyweight champion.
Six months after becoming British champion, Pearce challenged Moroccan born Frenchman Lucien Rodriguez for his European title on 30 March 1984. It was an interesting experience, as told by Luke, with the Pearce team spending a night sleeping on benches at the airport terminal in London before flying to France.
Pearce knocked down Rodriguez twice in the eighth round before losing the 12 round decision. The general consensus is that Pearce was clearly beaten but British reporters suggested Rodriguez had been given the benefit of at least one long count. (According to the website Welsh Warriors, the referee gave Rodriguez a “very, very slow” count on the first knockdown and an “extended” count when the Frenchman went down the second time in the eighth).
“Giving away height and reach, eight pounds in weight and a World in experience, David constantly marched forward,” Welsh boxing historian Gareth Jones wrote in his book 'The Boxers of Wales, Vol 5; Newport, the Gwent Valleys and Monmouthshire.': “The ring was the largest permissible and Lucien used it well, making his foe miss badly, while bringing blood from the Welshman’s nose,” Jones wrote.
An apparent slow count brought “angry protests” from Pearce’s then manager Burt McCarthy. “Lucien kept on the move until the safety of the bell,” Jones added. “David’s chance was gone.”
Despite the loss, Pearce’s stock rose. He was recognised by the WBA as a contender for their cruiserweight title. Ossie Ocasio had become the first WBA cruiser champion in 1982 and had defended the title twice. “I don’t want to disrespect Ocasio, as he was a great fighter, but David knocked him out in sparring,” Luke said. “David also sparred some other great fighters around the time such as Trevor Berbick and Lennox Lewis. Mind you, Lewis was a bit of a handful.
“We all knew that David was built for this division and would have had great success, but he was still a big threat to any heavyweight. At one point it was looking likely he was going to fight Frank Bruno. They’d fought on the same cards on a few occasions.”
Rarely tipping the scales at more than 200lbs, the (then) 190lbs cruiserweight division might have been perfect for Pearce. Unfortunately, his career was dealt a cruel blow when he failed a British Boxing Board brain scan. “That pretty much ended his career at the age of 24,” Luke said.
Pearce was granted a boxing licence in the US and it seemed that he might not only get the opportunity to resurrect his career but do so against big names. However, projected fights against former champion Leon Spinks and future champion Buster Douglas fell through.
There was talk of bouts on unlicensed shows before Pearce finally returned to the ring nearly seven years after the Rodriguez fight. On 10 December 1990 he met the much bigger Percell Davis, in Dearborn, Michigan, for what turned out to be a sorry affair, with Pearce stopped in the eighth round.
“He came back for the money,” Luke said. “He only had four days to train before he fought Davis.” Also, Pearce was outweighed by 55lbs. “It was ridiculous,” Luke said. “The fight should have never happened.”
Pearce never fought again. Shortly after his retirement he developed epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Despite this, Pearce coached junior and seniors at Alway Amateur Boxing Club in Newport until his untimely death on 20 May 2000. He was only 41. Around 2,000 people attended his funeral at Stow Hill Cemetery in Newport.
“It’s crazy how David’s story was so unlucky, but so great.” Luke said. “He was Welsh and British heavyweight champion and should have won the European title. Another time, another place and he would have been in with a good chance of being cruiserweight champion of the World.
“But what he’s achieved in Newport stands head and shoulders above any belts. He died in 2000, but his spirit lives on in the area. I hope David will continue to inspire many others for decades to come.”
Copyright stamped and dated with typed paper attachment for publications purposes on reverse.
Condition good (heavy top right corner crease)
David 'Bomber' Pearce - Immortal Warrior
David 'Bomber' Pearce (8 May 1959 – 20 May 2000) former British heavyweight champion.
He was one of a quartet of exciting British heavyweights in the 1980s, along with Frank Bruno, John L. Gardner and Noel Quarless, who held out the possibility of a future British heavyweight World champion.
Pearce was seen as the first real cruiserweight from Great Britain, but due to the BBBoC reluctance to recognise the division he was unable to fight for the WBA cruiserweight title in 1983 after signing the contract. Subsequently the BBBoC recognised the cruiserweight division in 1985, 1 year after Pearce was forced to retire.
Pearce defeated a number of top heavyweights, by knockout, in his career, including Mal Tetley, Winston Allen, Denton Ruddock, Larry McDonald, Ishaq Hussain, Dennis Andries, Gordon Ferris, Albert Syben, Neville Meade and John Tate.
Pearce, born in Pillgwenlly, Newport, Gwent, was one of nine children: seven brothers, six of whom boxed professionally, and one who was a professional dancer, and two sisters.
He boxed out of St Josephs ABC in Pillgwenlly, Newport and coached junior and senior boxers at Alway ABC in Newport before his death.
Soon after his final professional fight in 1990, against Percell Davies in Michigan, Pearce became seriously ill, in later years developing epilepsy. There was no specific evidence that this had been brought on by repeated blows to the head, but he immediately retired from boxing on medical advice. He died 10 years later, at the age of 41, due to SADS (Sudden Adult Death Syndrome). The South Wales Argus described him as "Newport's most famous boxer." Around 2,000 people attended his funeral in Newport at Stow Hill Cemetery.
Boxing Career Achievements
British Heavyweight Title, 1983
*Pearce won the Welsh and British Heavyweight Boxing Titles in September 1983.
*In March 1984 Pearce knocked down Lucien Rodriguez twice in Limoges whilst fighting for the prestigious European Heavyweight Title.
*Pearce was ranked as high as No.7 in the Heavyweight World rankings before his career was cut short.
*Pearce was ranked No.3 in the WBC World Cruiserweight Rankings after the KO of Micheal "Jack" Johnson in 1984.
*Pearce was due to fight Buster Douglas in Columbus, Ohio, USA but was pulled out whilst warming up in the changing room on 3 hrs notice.
*David Pearce vs Leon Spinks was called off and a new opponent found on 24 hrs notice, even though contracts were signed.
*David Pearce was medically retired in 1984. This was something he disputed, until after his last semi-professional boxing bout in 1994. The Reason for the dispute was David had been given a clean bill of health and a confirmation letter from a Harley Street Neurologist Consultant stating, "He was at no greater risk, than any other professional boxer"
*Pearce came 2nd in the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year in 1983.
*Steve Lillis, boxing journalist and co-presenter of Box-Nation, voted David 'Bomber' Pearce in his Top Ten most Underrated British boxing champions (Lonsdale Belt Holders) of all time.
British Heavyweight Title
*Pearce suffered two setbacks on his road to the British title. A loss to Neville Meade when still a raw teenager, and to John Rafferty, Pearce had knocked down Rafferty four times before he was disqualified in the 3rd round for punching after the referee had called break.
*Pearce fought and stopped Dennis Andries, the three times WBC World light heavyweight world champion, in the 7th round. Dennis Andries went 6 years before being stopped again, this time by Thomas Hearns in the 10th round.
*Pearce, challenged and vowed to avenge his loss to Neville Meade to win the Welsh and British Heavyweight titles.
*Pearce won the Welsh and British Heavyweight Boxing Titles in September 1983 at the St David's Hall against Commonwealth Gold Medallist and British Heavyweight Champion Neville Meade; Although the Welsh Title was won on the night, the title had to be relinquished by Pearce, due to his commitments of becoming British Heavyweight Champion.
*Pearce is noted for boxing in the last 15 round British championship bout, as the contracts for the bout were finalised before the new 12 round format was introduced.
European Heavyweight Title (EBU)
*David Pearce drew with Felipe Rodriquez for the EBU title. Felipe Rodriquez has a statue erected in his hometown of Vilaxoan.
*The European heavyweight title fight saw Pearce knock down Lucien Rodriguez, the long standing European Champion, twice in the 8th round. Both the counts were over 10 seconds, 13 and 17 seconds respectively, the most experienced judge scored the fight 114-115 and the referee scorecard read 115-114. Some observers, including Reg Gutteridge, felt Pearce was very unlucky not to get the verdict due to the two infamous long counts.
*Pearce was one decision away from being mandatory to fight Larry Holmes for the WBC Heavyweight World title as Rodriquez had done in 1983. In doing so Pearce would have been the first Welshman since Tommy Farr to fight for the title.
*Lucien Rodriquez was quoted in the French press as saying that Pearce had been "the toughest man he had faced" in his whole boxing career, "he had an Iron Chin, and would walk you down taking a lot of punches just to unload his bombs, but he had devastating power!" and that "Pearce did what two World Champions couldn't do".
*David "Bomber" Pearce's family were awarded the original EBU Heavyweight Boxing Belt and a letter signed by the president and secretary of the board at the unveiling of the Bronze Statue in his honour.
World Cruiserweight Title (WBA)
*David signed a contract, through promoter Frank Warren, to fight the winner between Ossie Occasio vs John Odihamibo for the WBA Cruiserweight title. This was before Pearce's boxing career was cruelly cut short due to medical reasons.
Pearce knocked out John Tate, and Mary Konate, in 1 and 3 rounds respectively, in unsanctioned bouts in Bakersfield, California in 1994. This was reported by Mr John Francis of the South Wales Argus.
Other Notable Facts
*Pearce ran up the steps of the Newport Transporter Bridge as a training aid.
*Pearce gave away at least 2 stone (28 lb; 13 kg) to most opponents during his career.
*Pearce weighed exactly the same weight as Johnny Nelson when he fought Dennis Andries, Pearce's KO of Dennis Andries was 15 years earlier.
*Pearce won two Heavyweight Prizefighter Tournaments during his career.
*Pearce sparred 20 rounds with Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion Trevor Berbick in the lead up to Pearce's British Heavyweight Title fight. This included a knockdown of Berbick in 1983, Pearce was Trevor Berbick’s number one challenger to the commonwealth heavyweight title. Berbick decided not to defend against David Pearce.
*Joe Bugner was floored by David Pearce during a sparring session, before a possible bout with Pearce for his comeback fight. This resulted in Bugner choosing another opponent.
*Pearce sparred with Lennox Lewis, in the lead up to Lewis becoming British Heavyweight Champion.
*Pearce retired due to an abnormality on the brain something he was born with, he was subsequently offered a contract to fight Lenny McLean, the guvnor in a Heavyweight Unlicenced British Title Fight, David signed the contract but McLean declined to fight.
*Bartley Gorman offered to fight David Pearce, for the unlicensed British Heavyweight Title for £25,000. Gorman, said if he had won the fight he would have fought for the World bare knuckle title. In his memoirs of an undefeated Bare Knuckle Champion of Great Britain and Ireland, "King of the Gypsies" that Gorman used the phrase "if he won.."
*David Pearce was good friends with Diana Dors and Alan Lake, who supported him in his 1st rd KO victory over 3 time European Heavyweight titlist Albert Syben.
*Sportswriter Harry Mullan was derogatory about Pearce's size for the Heavyweight division in some of his articles, this had a negative effect at the time. Mullan did praise Pearce in later years, for his bravery and achievements. Harry always maintained David Pearce would have been World Champion in the Cruiserweight division.
Notable Quotes And Tributes
* "Pearce is all action, he is a great crowd pleaser, he comes in flinging punches, cross armed in defence a lot like Rocky Marciano used to and boy does he throw them" "He certainly does unleash them" "He is a born fighter" – Reg Gutteridge – During the Felipe Rodriquez, fight at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
* "Pearce has won the fight and Pearce has gone berserk, he can hardly believe it!" "23 year old David Pearce, the Bomber they call him from Newport and he has bombed Ferris out of the British heavyweight race!" "Well that was one of the most savagely, raw, attacking performances we have seen from a British Heavyweight in many years. That's a little bit like the old days of Dick Richardson and he came from Newport too!" – Reg Gutteridge. Post - David Pearce Final eliminator at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
* "I have never trained so hard in all my life. That was for my father, the people of Newport and also for myself." – Pearce, after his British Heavyweight Title fight at St David's Hall, Cardiff.
* "Pearce won the European Heavyweight Title twice last night" in reference to the two long counts (13 & 17 seconds) Reg Gutteridge reporting on the European Heavyweight Title fight the next day.
*Frank Maloney said of Pearce: "They dont make them like him anymore! Pearce would have fought anybody!"
*Lucien Rodriguez said: “Pearce did what two World Champions couldn’t do” In reference to his fights with Larry Holmes and Michael Dokes.
*Dick Richardson said: "David should have gone to London, he would have been a superstar. He is the most exciting heavyweight we have seen in many years".
*Michael Dokes named David Pearce "The Welsh Jack Dempsey" whilst sparring under the tutelage of Angelo Dundee.
*Bimbo Pearce said of his brother: "He would have been unstoppable at cruiserweight".
*Eddie Avoth described Pearce as: “One of the greatest Welsh fighters we have produced”.
*Robbie Regan said: “He was the most avoided fighter in the heavyweight division”.
*Steve Sims said: “What a left hook! He is sorely missed and Newport’s own Rocky.”
*Andy Gerrard said: "his power was truly unbelievable, he was a pound for pound king."
* "Dave Pearce was a legend, a true hard man." Charles Bronson.
*Craig Kennedy British Cruiserweight challenger said “An absolute inspiration, I just wish I got to meet him”.
*Lee Selby IBF World Featherweight Champion said “David Pearce was one hell of a fighter".
*Johnny Nelson, former WBO Cruiserweight World Champion, said "Thank god he wasn't around when I was World champion, he was a right handful" Nelson also said "Pearce was ahead of his time" - In reference to the Cruiserweight division being active in the United States and not being active in the United Kingdom.
*Spencer Fearon said "David Pearce was a fantastic warrior, he was so rugged and powerful."
*Steve Bunce said "In any other era David Pearce would have been a star." "If the European Heavyweight title fight had been in London or Cardiff, Pearce would have been champion".
*Welsh boxing historian Gareth Jones said "David Pearce would have been dominant in the Cruiserweight division very similar to how David Haye was with the ability to move up due to his World Class durability and punching power".
*Frank Warren said "He boxed an American for me and drew for the European Heavyweight title against Felipe Rodriguez, the panther at the Royal Albert Hall, David was a tough, hard, Welshman and a nice guy.
*Walter 'Bimbo' Pearce was a professional boxer, Bimbo won amateur titles from flyweight to Heavyweight in over 200 fights including stopping boxer Cliff Fields. Bimbo won the Heavyweight WABA Title in 1973 and defeated the Light Heavyweight Central Champion also in the same year.
*Raymond Pearce a middleweight fought the three times WBC World Light Heavyweight champion Dennis Andries. Raymond is now a United States Citizen and an Elvis impersonator.
*Gary Pearce challenged for the Welsh Welterweight and Light Middleweight Titles. Gary Pearce travelled to Randers, Denmark to fight Hans Henrik Palm, the long-standing European Welterweight Champion, Gary took him the distance including a knockdown of the Champion in rd 6 but ultimately lost the fight by 1/2 point. One story which will go down in boxing folklore.. Gary was enjoying a night out at a professional boxing show with friends, when Frank Warren the respected boxing promoter asked him to fight Gary Knight, whose opponent had pulled out at late notice. Gary accepted and made his way from the crowd, he borrowed kit from all the other fighters on the show. Gary then fought the then number 1 British Welterweight Gary Knight over 10 rounds. Gary struggled in the early rounds, and was repeatedly sick in the corner between rounds. Gary fought back brilliantly in the middle part of the fight and ended the fight the strongest, albeit ending up losing by 1/2 point over 10 rounds in what local newspapers had him winning.
*Ronald Pearce was a professional boxer, he fought Paul Wetter and Robert Smith the now BBBoC General secretary.
*Nigel Pearce had five fights as a professional boxer.
*Simon Pearce the seventh brother graduated from Italia Conti and subsequently went on to star in Starlight Express, Cats, and Mousetrap musicals in the West End. Simon Pearce starred as Mr Soft in the famous soft mints TV advert. Simon was offered the chance to front the band Steps but turned it down due to personal reasons. His friends Included Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra.
*Luke Pearce won the lightweight armed forces representative tournament title in the year 2000 in Aldershot. After winning the Welsh Guards Lightweight, and Welterweight titles, he fought and beat Chris Harman in the Welsh Guards Boxing Championships. Luke fought in the Welsh Boxing Federation, and Chris Harman went on to win the WABA Welsh Heavyweight Title in 2006, and fight Mark Potter for the UK Cage Fighting Title. Luke served with the 1st Btn Welsh Guards in the British Army, passed selection for the Royal Navy, and served as an Airman in the Royal Air Force. Luke Commissioned into the Royal Air Force as a Flying Officer in 2016. Luke Pearce's God Mother is Debbie Pulis, the wife of Tony Pulis, the football manager.
Pearce has been name-checked in a number of books, including Diana Dors' A-Z of Men, Bartley Gorman and Peter Walsh's King of the Gypsies and Leighton Frayne's The Frayne Brothers. Paddy Monaghan's "TheSunshine in my life".
Pearce's family relative Luke Pearce has donated 61 copies of a portrait of Pearce, to be installed at well known locations in Newport and the rest of Wales and the UK. Including 3 overseas locations.
Boxing News, the UK's biggest boxing magazine, supported the campaign for a Pearce statue. In 2016 The David 'Bomber' Pearce Statue Fund was given permission to erect a bronze sculpture to commemorate Pearce in Newport City Centre. On the 9 June 2018 a life-sized sculpture of Pearce, by Laury Dizengremel, was unveiled at Newport riverfront.
A charitable organisation named #NewportsRocky was set up to support local community projects in the South Wales area.