TRIBUTES have been paid to a Cottingley-born fighter who triumphed during the golden age of British professional wrestling and travelled the world.

Heavyweight Geoff Portz has died aged 84 in his adopted home of Australia after a life spent grappling with the best around the globe.

The powerfully-built amateur turned professional in 1951, aged 20, and his technical ability and strength saw him become British Champion at both Mid-Heavyweight and Heavyweight before he left to join the US circuit.

Wibsey-based wrestling expert Steve Tempest-Mitchell is the son of Bradford wrestling star Dennis Mitchell, who fought alongside Mr Portz, and he told of his early life.

"I always knew him as Uncle Geoff - a very strong and well-respected wrestler in what is recognised as the golden era of British wrestling, before the likes of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks came on the scene.

"Bradford had a wealth of talent with about 50 wrestlers in the region and dad met Geoff at a gym and brought him into the business.

"They went out to wrestle in Germany as a masked tag team with dad called OK1 and Geoff as OK2 and I can remember going over to see them compete - they had a big following.

"At home our families grew up together and I knew Geoff as a great man with a wicked sense of humour.

"He was also an excellent carpenter and built his own bungalow in Cottingley, built a boat and also used to design and make his own furniture."

Mr Portz fought in the US during the 1960s and moved there for some 15 years, winning the North American heavyweight championship on four separate occasions.

He also fought under the name Mr X and was later given the ring name of Lord Geoffrey.

During a spell back home, he fought with Japanese martial arts expert Harold Sakata - who also found fame as the James Bond villain 'Oddjob', in a bout in Loughborough town hall in 1965.

The besuited Mr Sakata was disqualified after his trademark steel-rimmed bowler hat "cut" Mr Portz's hand.

Mr Portz retired from wrestling in the early 1980s and spent three years working for Bradford Council as a weight-lifting instructor.

He then moved briefly to the US, where his son Gary was a pro-wrestler known as Scott McGhee, and then on to Australia to be near his daughter Lynne and her family.

Mr Tempest-Mitchell said Mr Portz was recently honoured with a life-time achievement award from wrestling fans which was awarded at a ceremony in Leeds and received by his son Gary, as he was unable to travel from Australia.

"He was a great wrestler, very talented in the ring and was also a great man," he said.