ASTON Villa Leisure Centre was the venue 40 years ago as Enniskillen man Gordon Ferris became the British Heavyweight champion with a points victory over Liverpool’s Billy Aird.

A relentless Ferris had kept the pressure on his opponent throughout the 15-round contest to deservedly land the Lonsdale Belt, much to the delight of his family and supporters who had travelled to see him in action.

The Fermanagh man had a distinguished amateur career that included winning bronze at the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

A decision was then taken to turn professional, and in 1978 he made the move to Birmingham to concentrate full-time on the fight game.

“I had moved over to Birmingham and met up with Paddy and Tommy Lynch, who were originally from Dublin. I trained with them and they became my management,” explained Gordon.

“It was actually an accidental meeting with them. We met in Belgium – they had a lad, Steve Early, boxing over there and my then manager, Philip McLaughlin, he brought me over to fight on the same bill, and that’s where it all kicked off for me.

‘The best move to make’

“It [moving to England] was the only way that I could have any success because at the time there was nothing happening over in Northern Ireland; all the sparring and fighting that I was going to get was in England and abroad, so that was the best move to make – to go to Birmingham to set up with the Lynch brothers,” he added.

And everything began to fall into place for Ferris as the British Heavyweight title became vacant.

“The title had come vacant when John L. Gardiner moved off, so there were a few eliminators set up.

“Tommy Kiely and I fought one which was for the Irish title, and an eliminator for the British title, which was in Belfast, and I won that.

“Then I fought another chap from up in the north east in the final eliminator, and eventually I went on to fight Billy Aird for the title,” he stated.

Aird and Ferris had previous form, having fought already.

“It was the second time we met. I had beaten him over ten rounds about 12 months before that, and then we fought again, this time over 15 rounds in the title bout,” said Gordon.

Ferris was not a big heavyweight, and says he had to bulk up to compete.

“My problem mostly was not being heavy enough, and if I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t have been a heavyweight, I would have been a Cruiserweight, maybe.

“I used to have to do a lot of weightlifting and eat a lot to keep the weight on.

“The last time I fought I was 15 stone, which was about a stone and a half heavier than I naturally would have been, and today I jump on the scales at the same weight – but unfortunately the muscle has gone and it is all on my tummy now,” he laughed.

The fight took place in Birmingham and Ferris says he had a good following cheering him on the night.

“It was in Birmingham, which is my adopted home town, plus a lot of my family and folk came over from Enniskillen so it was exciting at the time,” he said.

The fight itself saw a younger Ferris take the fight to the experienced Aird.

“I had to keep the pressure on because Billy had great experience, and he had fought a lot of people, including a lot of sparring with Muhammad Ali . He was very crafty, so I just had to keep the pressure on.

“I was about five years younger than him, and it told in the end,” he added.

Aird did try to battle his way back into the bout in the later stages, but Ferris felt he was comfortable throughout as he had his arms raised after the final bell.

“His camp maybe felt he came back into it, but I didn’t, I had just carried on the whole way through the fight doing the same thing, and it turned out all right.”

Gordon acknowledges that it was great to arrive back in the dressing room with the belt following 15 tough rounds.

“That was very nice, and it is great to look back on the photographs from that night.”

So, what about the party after the fight?

“All my friends and family went to a nightclub to a party – but I went straight home and went to bed; I was knackered,” he smiled.