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Hundreds turned up to bid farewell to Dartford Destroyer Dave Charnley yesterday at the church of St Mary the Virgin, Stone.

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Family, friends and fans turned up to pay their respects to the boxing lightweight champion who died from pneumonia on March 3, aged 76.

Rev Kenneth Clark led the funeral service and paid tribute to a man he called a “builder” rather than a “destroyer”.

Boxing referee and judge Larry O’Connell also paid tribute to the boxing hero.

After the service, Dave Charnley’s body was taken to Medway Crematorium in Chatham.

Charnley’s cousin and god-daughter Gillian Lees, 56, of Ash Green, who attended the service, said: “He was just a wonderful person. Very inspirational. One of life’s best people.

“When I was young he used to give me pocket-money, and I remember when I was 12 or 13 I was a hair model in his salon.”

Her husband Tim Lees added: “If you didn’t know about his past, you would not know he was famous at all. He was totally non-pretentious. He was a family man. ”

Danny Rawlins, 79, an ex-boxer who used to spar with Dave Charnley, said: “The best thing about sparring with Dave was when it was all over. He was vicious inside the ring, and a kitten outside of it.”

Another ex-boxer and chairman of the Kent Ex-boxers Association Dave “Smokey” Davis, 72, of Gillingham, said: “I joined the army (Royal Engineers regiment in Maldern, Worcestershire) on the same day as Dave. He was a lovely fellow.”

Boxing historian Harold Alderman, who also attended the funeral, said: “I think he’s the greatest British fighter I have seen. He’s the greatest British fighter not to have won a world title. He fought all the top people. He beat American Don Jordan who went onto become World Welterweight champion ten months later.”

Sean Holland, landlord of the Lads of the Village pub near the church, also paid tribute to the boxer. Dave Charnley’s uncle footballer Sam Charnley was pub landlord there between 1954 and 1956. The pub was one of the recipients of the Lonsdale belt which was given to the pub that raised the most money for Cancer Research in the local area in the 1970s and 1980s.

He said: “I remember Dave coming in to push all the pennies customers had donated into a sack. He did a lot for Cancer Research.”

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