A former wrestler who went eye to eye with Muhammad Ali, is aiming to run rings round drivers who park illegally in disabled bays – with a new protest petition.
John Welsh, 77, from Hebburn, met the great heavyweight in a mobile boxing ring set up to publicise Ali’s visit to South Shields in 1977.
Known as the Black Mask, Mr Welsh, who fought 3,500 professional bouts, has now launched his latest fight.
He is furious at drivers who flaunt parking laws by leaving their cars in bays reserved for Blue Badge holders in the town.
In just two days, he secured 300 signatures – and wants another 100 by the weekend.
Once his target is reached, he plans to hand his petition to South Tyneside Council, with a demand for action.
Mr Welsh, himself a Blue Badge holder, said: “People have been coming up to me, asking to sign the petition.
“They are fed up with the problem of motorists parking their cars in bays that are meant only for people who are disabled.
“This is a problem that has been going on in Hebburn for a decade, and it’s time something was done about it.
“The council seems to be washing its hands, so I’ve started the petition in the hope action is finally taken.”
He added: “Plenty of times, I’ve seen disabled people having to park away from where they need to be, simply because a driver who shouldn’t be there is in a disabled bay.”
Mr Welsh has identified the main issues revolving around bays outside Asda, on Station Road, and in the Hebburn Central car park, on Glen Street.
Among his demands is the introduction of CCTV to catch illegal parkers.
South Tyneside Council has said it carries out regular patrols and issues Penalty Charge Notices to people who park illegally.
It has urged motorists to park courteously and only use disabled bays if they have the right to do so.
A spokesman said: “We do regular patrols in Hebburn, within our limited resources, and issue Penalty Charge Notices to those people who park illegally in disabled bays.
“Bays reserved for Blue Badge holders are there to give people with disabilities easier access to local amenities. We would encourage people to park courteously and only use these spaces if they have the right to do so.”