by Luke Pearce
David Pearce was born on the 8th May 1959 at his parent’s home in
Newport, south Wales. One of seven brothers, David was born into a
true boxing family; six of the brothers, including David, boxed
professionally. David, who became the most successful boxer in the
family, took up the sport at 10 years of age and won a fistful of
schoolboy and senior amateur titles prior to turning professional in
He was a gentleman who was devoted to his family and a truly
dedicated boxer - who unfortunately never seemed to get the breaks.
A lot of speculation has arisen concerning the management of his
early career with, rightly or wrongly, some people believing he
should have taken up offers he received to go to London with
higher-profile managers, but David loved his father and family and
wouldn't have had it any other way.
Theo Josephs (Plymouth, Devon, 11.12.78)
Having begun his professional career with a first round TKO of
Taylor, Pearce followed it up with a second round KO of Bob Bleau,
before taking on the vastly more experienced Theo Josephs just 10 days
later. Three fights in six weeks; a somewhat hectic schedule for a
tender 19 year old, just starting out in the heavyweight professional
fight game. Josephs, aged 23, from Trinidad was having his 17th bout.
Josephs used his experience, as best he knew, as he tried to rough
David up on the inside, rubbing heads and trapping his arm and then
working him to the body. This was clearly a learning fight for David
and he progressed as the rounds ticked off, adjusting his tactics as
he read the fight. It was action all the way over the 8 rounds and
it came as no surprise when David's arm was lifted by the referee. A
good eight rounds under his belt and a fine win was all part of the
learning curve. Just over 6 months later David had a rematch with
Josephs, at Aberavon, and stopped him in 2 rounds……..he was learning
fast, very fast.
David had two great qualities for a heavyweight, he could punch
with either hand and was one of the most determined boxers ever to
enter the ring.
Larry McDonald (NSC London, 16.03.81)
Larry McDonald was a big man by any standards, but in comparison to
‘Bomber’ Pearce, McDonald was a VERY big man. He was 5 years older
than David, six inches taller and outweighed him by a couple of
stone - this was just for starters. He was also undefeated.
David pressured him from the start and tagged him with some
head shots on the ropes. He also understood the effects of a
sustained attack to the body - to bring the hands down for a clear
left hook or right cross to the head. These tactics paid off for
Pearce when he pressured Larry to the ropes yet again in the third
round, seizing his chance as McDonald dropped his hands to protect
his body and scored with an hellacious right hand…...timber……..big
Larry dropped to the canvas and there was no way he was going to
beat the count...not even to 100.
David Pearce's 1st round wins over both Ishaq Hussain and Albert
Syben were both significant and special. Both fighters had good
records and mixed in good company both in Europe and America. Albert
Syben fought various champions and both he and Hussain were very
rarely stopped so David's one round KO's of both were substantial in
the boxing fraternity.
Another significant win for David was his 7 round stoppage of Dennis
Andries, this was the first inside schedule loss for Andries; well
known as a real hard man of the ring. For Pearce to have stopped him
in 7 so early in his career speaks volumes about David's potential
and of course his punching power. Dennis Andries went on to become
WBC Light-Heavyweight champion and fought some of the great names in
boxing, including the legendary Thomas Hearns. A great result for
David, as he also gained revenge for his brother Ray, who had been
defeated by Andries earlier in his career. Revenge was sweet.
Thus far, ‘Bomber’ Pearce had accumulated a fine record of 15 wins
with just two
defeats; an unsuccessful attempt to take the Welsh
heavyweight title from Neville Meade followed immediately by a third
round disqualification against John Rafferty. However, a good run of
wins, particularly over Andries, saw the Newport heavyweight in
contention for a British title shot. David's 5th round KO of Gordon
Ferris was spectacular and exciting. Harry Carpenter infamously said
it “Didn't resemble anything to do with boxing and it was on the
cobbles stuff” as both fighters fought valiantly but David's body
and head attacks were just too powerful. This was five great rounds
and great television but more significantly it was the final
eliminator for the British Heavyweight title and the chance to
become only the fifth British heavyweight champion to herald from
Wales and the only ever from Newport or Gwent.
Neville Meade (St Davids Hall, Cardiff, 22.09.83)
British Heavyweight Title
Welsh Heavyweight Title
This was the last 15 round British championship bout ever fought.
‘Pearce is noted for boxing in the last 15-round British
championship bout, as the contracts for the bout were finalised
before the present 12-round rule was in place’.
Once David had weathered the early storms, he effectively waited for
the older man to run out of steam, as he sought to avenge his
earlier career defeat by the Swansea fighter. In the 8th,
Meade was decked, only to come under heavy fire again in the next
round before he was rescued by the referee after being battered
against the ropes. David Pearce had become the British heavyweight
champion - a title he never lost in the ring.
Lucien Rodriguez (Limoges, France, 30.03.84)
European Heavyweight Title
David was biding his time for the first couple of rounds, finding
out what Lucien had in the way of punching power, feeling him out.
In the 8th round, David struck and Rodriguez was found wanting as he
was dropped by a right. The referee gave what appeared to be a very,
very slow count. David moved in for the kill and dropped Lucien
again heavily. The Moroccan, fighting in his adopted homeland, was
now cut over the left eye and clearly in bad shape but, once again
the count appeared to be extended, even more this time, enabling him
to beat the count. Lucien survived.
The defending champion boxed on the retreat for the last four rounds
and was fortunate not to be stopped on account of his severely
damaged eye. Controversy surrounded the ‘long count’ issue long
afterwards with some insisting that David had actually KO'd
Rodriguez twice in that 8th round. The French promoters had
obviously done their homework as they provided a 'football pitch
sized ring’ that enabled their man, all too easily, to keep away
from the marauding David Pearce. It was a shame but still a valiant
effort; the French crowd gave David a standing ovation and followed
him from the stadium chanting his name. Just two fights earlier
Rodriguez had taken the great Larry Holmes the full distance in
losing a points decision in his bid to take the world heavyweight
title. Once again David hadn’t got the breaks, as he came so close
to beating a world title challenger and seizing the European title
It is a feature of Pearce’s career that he was continually
overlooked. Regarded by many as too difficult, too dangerous and a
fully paid up member of the ‘who needs him’ club. In their view he
was best avoided, particularly in a championship contest which is
why he never got to fight the ‘names’ of the day and pit himself
against the established, more well known fighters who went on to
challenge for world titles.
Then it went wrong………...terribly wrong.
A compulsory brain scan, as required by the British Boxing Board of
in a devastating blow to David’s boxing career.
The scan had revealed irregularities which led to the Welsh fighter
being suspended by the Board. Immediately, Pearce appealed against
the decision but lost his bid to resume his career and was banned
from the ring as a result of the scan. In rejecting Pearce's appeal,
the BBBC ruled that before being allowed to return, he would have to
consult a neurologist and convince the board that he is fit, they
withdrew his licence and declared his heavyweight crown vacant.
David Pearce, the British Heavyweight champion had lost his title;
not in the ring, but in the offices of the BBBofC.
The former Newport steelworker relentlessly campaigned for the
return of his licence. Following several unsuccessful attempts to
return to the ring, David was linked with underground fighters and
promoters. Notably Lenny McLean & Bartley Gorman (The undefeated
bare-knuckle champion of Great Britain & Ireland)
David was a very colourful character, but along with manager Wally
decided not to take the £20,000 on offer to fight Gorman as it would
have affected his appeal to get his licence back. While campaigning
for the return of his licence the likeable Newport fighter sparred
with Lennox Lewis and Tim Witherspoon in an effort to keep fit. He
also took an active role in preparing youngsters for stardom in his
David Pearce did effectively return to the ring but due to the
enforced inactivity and age being against him he just wasn't the
same fighter. He gave away 5 1/2 stone to Percell Davis in his
return, seven long years later. Fighting in Michigan, USA David went
down to an eighth round defeat, but as always he had surprised
everyone present with his courage and bravery as he took shot after
shot but kept going until the referee stepped in to end the fight.
That was David's style he dished it out and took whatever came his
way as he just plodded on. It was a sad end for a great fighter.
On returning home to Newport, Pearce’s final years were marked by
epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease. The last 9 months of David's life
were spent coaching kids of all ages at Alway A.B.C even though he
could no longer box; he still had great enthusiasm for the game. He
was known to Alway ABC as "the pied piper of Newport", because
wherever he went he had his followers.
On Sat 20th May, David Pearce was found dead at his home in Newport.
Boxers, promoters and other sportsmen joined family and friends as
they rang the final bell for the 40 year old. Bethel Temple
Pentecostal church in Stow Hill struggled to contain everyone eager
to pay their respects to the man who brought the Lonsdale belt to
Newport in 1983. An entourage of five hearses was led through the
packed streets by a police escort. It was a fitting tribute to the
former Welsh and British Heavyweight Champion which he thoroughly deserved.