Simon Parker column

When Junior Witter was crowned Bradford’s first world champion, he knew who to thank.

The Ingle gym may have moulded the fighter but there was a guy in his home city who had made him.

Alec Allan was more than just a boxing coach. For Witter, and countless others, he was a mentor and guiding light; somebody who kept youngsters off the streets and instilled a sense of self-worth and respect for their surroundings.

As Witter said this week, there will never be another like him.

Allan, who died on Tuesday morning aged 83, was a genuine, caring figure in a sport not known for its compassion.

He nurtured young boxers at the Bradford Police boys club to appreciate their sport by doing things the right way.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights would find him working with youngsters in the gym. Tuesdays and Thursdays were often spent ferrying those lads round different venues in the north for bouts.

Justice and fair play mattered. Many a time at an amateur show, Allan would not celebrate a victory if he did not feel it was earned.

Witter and fellow fighter Nadeem Siddique took those values into the professional ring. They never forgot the important lessons learned from the former Rhodesway School teacher.

“Alec was very proud about my career,” said Witter. “But it wasn’t about my achievements.

“Of course he was pleased when I won titles but I think it meant more to him seeing me going round schools and talking to kids.

“He wanted to do everything for the community and that affected everyone who knew him. He liked to see us all giving something back.”

Boxing was a passion for Allan since he first put gloves on at school and then in the army. But there was so much more to his life with his near 40-year service at school and his work with the local church.

A familiar and popular face around the Thornton area, Allan was always available to do a good deed.

Even as his own health started to diminish, he would be out and about doing favours for older, frailer neighbours.

Witter laughed: “Alec was always doing the gardening for the old folk, as he called them.

“I’d tell him ‘Alec, you want to slow down a bit and take it easy’ – but he’d still be mowing the lawn for somebody. That was the kind of man he was, always putting other people first.”

Three days before passing away, Allan and his wife Margaret were in Sheffield for Witter’s engagement party. It was an occasion he had promised not to miss.

That was the last time Witter saw him but the memories will live on. Many others will always recall ‘Pop’ Allan in the same positive way.

Twitter was full of tributes when I posted the sad news of his death; young and old, former pupils and children of those who had been taught by him either in school or in the ring.

Alec Allan, a true champion of Bradford.