Boxing champion Anthony ‘Babyface’ Nelson has followed in the footsteps of a sporting legend.
Almost 40 years ago, king of the ring Muhammad Ali visited South Shields and took time out during his whistle-stop tour to sign the visitors’ book at its town hall.
Now, the town’s new English and Commonwealth super-flyweight champion has added his name to the book during a ceremony at the historic building to mark his recent title win.
Anthony, of South Shields, visited the town hall with his family and trainer Mal Gates to meet the then mayor and mayoress of South Tyneside, Coun Fay Cunningham and Stella Matthewson, prior to the pair handing over their chains to new Mayor and mayoress, Coun Richard Porthouse and his wife Pat.
The 29-year-old said: “It’s nice that people took the time to organise this for me and that I was able to take my family along.
“When I got there, I went straight for the visitor book, which had Muhammad Ali’s name in it.
I’m just a local lad who is doing something that I love.Anthony Nelson
“The kids had a great time at the town hall, and my family were really proud.
“It’s nice that people have recognised what I’ve achieved, but for me, it’s not about that.
“I’m just a local lad who is doing something that I love.
“The mayoress took me through the early visitor books and told me how kids used to be brought in to sign the book before they were shipped off to Australia.
“I’m really interested in history so it was really fascinating to hear, even though it was quite sad.”
Father-of-two Anthony won his title after a stoppage victory over Dundee’s Jamie Wilson at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena. He is now gearing up for his next bout in July and a defence of his belt in September.
Anthony started his fighting career at Horsley Hill Boxing club but now trains at Harton and Westoe Miners’ Welfare Club.
He added: “I’m really happy with the direction my boxing is taking, and, hopefully, we can look to take on bigger fights in the future.”