TRIBUTES have been paid after a gentleman boxer who fought racial prejudice both in and out of the ring died.

Long-time Patcham resident Melville Smith was a champion boxer in India who was cruelly deprived of his chance to fight for an Olympic gold medal.

His move to Brighton was funded by an act of Christian generosity after he and his family left India almost penniless.

Melville, who has died at age 86, was a famed boxer in India in the 1940s where he lost just one bout in controversial circumstances.

His son Kevin Smith, from Hove, said: “The other guy admitted that he had been defeated but told my father the only way you are going to win was to knock him out and my dad said: ‘Don’t worry in the rematch I will’ and he did.”

Melville was then robbed of the chance to compete in the London Olympics in 1948 partly because his wife Rita was wary of her “pin-up” husband being apart from her and partly because the Indian government refused to pay his costs.

Kevin said: “One of the guys dad beat went to the Olympics and won a medal.

“He always regretted not going to the Olympics.”

In 1961 Melville brought his young family to England, first moving to London and then to Brighton a couple of years later.

Kevin added: “All children think their parents are kind and generous and warm but my dad really was a gentleman. He was still opening the car door for my mum at 87.

“His family was his life. He made sure we were all brought up to be respectful.”

Melville worked as a train guard with British Rail, retiring in 1958, and was supported by his son.

After that he devoted his life to his family and to the church, becoming a regular at St Thomas More Church in Braybon Avenue.

He is survived by four great grandchildren, 11 grandchildren, four daughters, one son and his wife Rita.

His funeral will be at the church at 11.15am on Friday.