Campaigners aiming to erect a statue of Newport boxing champion David Pearce will take their fight to Belle Vue Park in Newport this weekend as they recall a key moment in the boxer’s life which they say sums up the Pill man’s guts and determination. MARTIN WADE reports.

David ‘Bomber’ Pearce was one of the most successful boxers to come out of Newport and the campaign to raise a statue in his honour is well on its way to reaching its 35k fundraising goal.

David’s finest hour came in 1983 when he lifted the coveted Lonsdale belt having beaten Neville Meade to become the Welsh and British heavyweight champion.

But perhaps his bravest hour came in 1984 when he came desperately close to lifting the European title despite having the odds stacked against him.

When David’s supporters gather in Belle Vue Park this weekend, they will come to the place where he used to train to remember that fight. They will be spending the night in the park in his memory.

David’s opponent for the fight was the French fighter Lucien Rodriguez. Rodriguez was European Heavyweight champion in 1977 and again between 1981 and 1984. He also held the French title at that weight between 1978 and 1981.

Just a year before, the Moroccan-born heavyweight had gone 12 rounds against the undefeated WBC champion Larry Holmes.

If this was not a challenge enough, David had to face one or two other hurdles before he faced his opponent in France.

Although it is unthinkable now, the fight promoter had not arranged somewhere for David to stay, so the former steel-worker from Pill slept on a park-bench in Limoges the night before the bout. As if that were not enough, he went in to the fight with broken bones in both his hands.

It would be a controversial contest. David knocked down his opponent twice in the eighth round with both counts going over 10 seconds - the first to 13 and the second to 17 seconds.

The ring at Palais des Sports de Beaublanc was made as large as was allowable. This made it easier for Rodriguez to keep clear of the smaller Pearce.

Fundraising committee member and nephew of David, Luke Pearce says: “Because of his smaller size, David would keep his opponents close and in range, but the larger ring made this task even harder.”

He lost in a controversial points decision, but afterwards David merely admitted he “had a few problems”, adding: “I won’t go into them, Lucien Rodriquez is a marvellous fighter, and I would like to thank the French crowd for the overwhelming support shown towards me”. They gave him a standing ovation and followed him from the stadium chanting his name. He came within a whisker of beating a world title challenger and taking the European title.

The French crowd’s emphatic response to the Newport fighter’s bravery was telling.

In its report on the fight Boxing News told how the French crowd gave “one of the most heart-warming ovations any British boxer has ever received”.

The report added: “They roared their appreciation at the end of the exhilarating fight, swarming around Pearce trying to shake his hand before carrying him back to his changing room chanting his name. They completely ignored a later fight on this bill to wave and cheer as he left the newly build Astrodome stadium.

“It was one of the best receptions an away fighter had ever seen from these shores.”

In a radio report the next day, boxing journalist Reg Gutteridge, referring to the two long counts said: “Pearce won the European Heavyweight Title twice last night.”

The praise didn’t just come from the British media. Rodriguez himself saw the quality of the man. “David ‘Bomber’ Pearce is the toughest man I have faced, he is a warrior he just kept coming, waves of attack after attack. He did what two world champions couldn’t do, put me down”.

For Luke Pearce, the night he and other campaigners will spend sleeping out in Belle Vue Park will recall that fateful time in Limoges when David was recognised for his mettle.

“The way the French crowd reacted showed the effect David had on people. He was a gentleman but had the heart of a lion, and the smile to brighten up any room. It also shows how he never gave any excuses he just got on with the sport he loved, even facing adversity after being on the wrong end of a decision after the champion had been knocked down for 13 and 17 seconds.

“We want to honour the strength and courage David showed after sleeping on a park bench and suffering a broken hand before the European Heavyweight title bout in Limoges” he adds.

“We’re doing it here in Belle Vue Park because this is where David used to come and train”. The Pill fighter could often be seen running up and down the steep slopes of the park. The images of the local hero getting fight-fit in his local park led him to be dubbed ‘Newport’s Rocky’.

Organisers hope the event will keep up the momentum the campaign has built up this year.

The campaign has benefitted from fundraising ventures large and small over the summer from businesses and individuals. Among those raising cash were Newport County AFC away supporters who donated £250 from collections at the recent Coventry and Leeds games. Vince Thomas, Andre Power, Jason Dowding and Bob Herrin of the official supporters’ coach worked hard to achieve this Luke says.

Newport firm LeeTech Gas engineers have donated £250 to the campaign and Joey Borne of the Victoria Inn Lliswerry has given £205. Other donations include £200 from the Hereford Arms, £100 from Bob Bowes, £60 from the Cross Keys Inn, £65 from the Scrum Half sports bar in Newport, £35 each from K&J hairdressers and from the Ivy Bush in Clarence Place in Newport.

These donations have enabled campaigners to pay the second instalment for the statue, with this £14,000 taking the total paid to £24,000. Sculptor Laury Dizengremel is already at work creating the figure which will be made out of bronze. She also created a statue of Gwent rugby and athletics star Ken Jones which stands in Blaenavon.

The overall target is £35,500 and money raised now will pay for the shipping of the finished statue and construction of the base.

Forthcoming events include a 70s night at the Malpas Unionist Club on September 22. Tickets are £3 and can be purchased from the club. The following night Oasis Experience and 2 Rude will feature in a fundraising concert at the Neon in Newport. Tickets are £10 and are available at the Neon, Diverse Records and Rob Santwris Carpets. On September 27 there will be a fundraising dinner at Tredegar Park Golf Club.

Luke says the money raised so far shows the love and belief people have shown in David’s achievements. “He’s an inspirational man and he shows young people in Newport and beyond that they can believe in themselves and really achieve something.”

He adds: “It’s great that so many people have put their hands in their pockets to support this campaign. Although we’ve achieved a lot we’ve still got a long way to go, but the inspiration David’s story has given will help us reach our goal”.

You can support the campaign now by going to the crowdfunding website More details on the campaign can be found at

Cheques payable to ‘The David Bomber statue fund’ can be sent to: Cwm Cottage, Cwm Lane, Rogerstone, Newport NP10 9GQ