A FORMER professional boxer died while training in a Hartlepool gym.
Hartlepool man Phil Gibson was using the treadmill in the gym at Belle Vue Sports Centre, in Kendal Road, on a low setting, when he suddenly collapsed.
The 52-year-old was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Today, his heartbroken family spoke for the first time about the beloved dad and grandad’s death and described him as “one of the nicest people you could meet”.
His eldest sister Deb Gibson, 58, a senior crown prosecutor, said: “He was just lovely, he would do anything for anybody.
“His funeral at Stranton Crematorium was absolutely packed, we couldn’t fit everybody in who wanted to come and pay their respects to him.”
His other sister Pam Clark, 54, added: “He was the kindest person I have known and it has been a privilege to have had him in our lives.
“We would also like to express thanks to Paul Craggs, a first aider at the Belle Vue Sports Centre who gave assistance to Phil after he collapsed until the paramedics arrived.”
Popular Phil, who is dad to 29-year-old Nikki and grandad to Courtney, was born to the late Ida Gibson and grew up in the now-demolished Sussex Street in the Belle Vue area of Hartlepool and was the youngest of three children.
He took up amateur boxing aged 12 at the Boys Welfare Club where he met and trained with the Feeney Brothers, John and George.
He later went on to become a professional boxer, from January 1981 until October 1982 - winning seven fights, losing six and drawing one. His last fight was a draw against a boxer called Charles Douglas, in Glasgow.
Deb said her brother, who also leaves behind nephew Robert Clark, had a long and varied working career including employment with The Royal Mail, Hartlepool Borough Council refuse department and in the security industry.
Phil, of Fraser Grove, Owton Manor, who passed away on Monday, September 30, also worked tirelessly as a volunteer at the Belle Vue Sports Centre.
Deb, who moved to Scunthorpe in 1978 for her husband’s work and was later joined by sister Pam, a driver, in 1979, said: “Phil did many charitable deeds in the community, too many to list in detail, but they included several Boxing Day dips.
“He also once agreed to being locked overnight in the crypt at the Blacksmiths Arms to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.”
She added: “He loved Hartlepool as well and he loved the people. Phil came down to Scunthorpe for a little while but he preferred it in Hartlepool. He got on well with the people there, it was his home.”
Phil, who liked to keep fit and train throughout his life, was an “intelligent and highly motivated person”, said Deb.
As well as studying Urdu, German and Spanish, he also taught himself to play the harmonica and guitar, wrote his own songs about everyday life in Hartlepool, and penned poetry spanning two decades. A collection of his work is currently being collated for publishing.
Deb said: “Phil was a loyal and dependable friend to many. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”