It was a case of standing-room only as loving family, friends and fighters past and present gathered to pay their last respects at Lytham Methodist Church to renowned boxing coach Frank Ellis.
Tributes from at home and much further afield were heard at the funeral service for Ellis, businessman, life-guard, high-board diving champion and highly respected boxing coach who trained several champions during his varied life.
He died aged on Christmas Day, the day before what would have been his 74th birthday.
The tone was set at the start of the service when Ellis’ son Mathew, himself trained by his father to be a champion, symbolically laid a pair of boxing-gloves on the coffin.
Mathew listened to the service head bowed solemnly throughout - among the boxers in the congregation were the likes of Scott Cardle, Adam Little, Louis Veitch, Craig Bowen-Price, Jeff Thomas and Eamonn Gaton. Some of them had been trained by Ellis at the start of their successful careers.
Mathew himself became a champion under his father’s guidance winning the Amateur Boxing Association heavyweight title, deciding to turn professional at that point, thus ruling himself out of a likely Olympic Games place in 1996.
British lightweight champion Cardle, who lives in Lytham, paid his own personal tribute, struggling to keep his own emotions in check but earning much admiration for his fortitude as he made a heartfelt address in honour of his boxing mentor and a person he described as being like a surrogate grandfather.
Cardle said: “Most of my teenage years were spent with Frank and he was more than just my boxing coach. He was also my best pal.
“He was like a granddad to me and I loved him like he was my own family.
“He turned me into a national champion champion within a year.
“I would not be where I am today if it was not for him.
“It is because of him that I am living the dream.”
Cardle, who is now one winning fight away from earning a coveted Lonsdale Belt outright, added: “I am going to train for my next fight ‘ the Frank way’ knowing that he will be smiling down on me,”
There was a touching message read out at the service from a young boxing hopeful known only as Sean.
He had texted Frank to wish him a happy birthday, not knowing that he had passed away.
He too had been affected for the good by Ellis’ infectious enthusiasm and encouragement.
A later text from the young man now applying for his professional licence was relayed to the congregation - this was sent after he had learned of Ellis’ death and it said: “My heart feels like it has had a kicking.
“You believed in me at a time when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Messages from Frank Ellis’ extended family in the United States were also read, referring to his ‘big heart and even bigger personality.’
Following the funeral, cremation took place at Lytham Crematorium.