Top jockey Frankie Dettori has led the tributes to former stable lads’ boxing champion John Duffy, who died last week aged 50.
John, who had worked in racing in Newmarket since he was 16, had been Dettori’s driver for a number of years.
“I’m devastated,” said Dettori. “John was a larger than life guy who became a close family friend and our families spent many happy holidays together.”
Originally from Barrhead in Scotland, John had first come to Newmarket as a teenager for a holiday.
“He came down to visit his brother who was working in town and he never went back,” said his sister-in-law Jane. He worked for trainers Henry Cecil and Michael Bell and also on the starting stalls.
A popular member of the town’s racing community, he was known for his prowess in the boxing ring. In his native Scotland he trained with the Barrhead Boxing Club and was picked to represent his country. In the stable lads’ boxing tournament he had an enviable record.
Between 1985 and 1993 he won titles on no fewer than six occasions becoming one of the tournament’s most successful and respected fighters.
Mark O’Reilly, coach at the Astley Boxing Club at Newmarket’s Racing Centre, said: “He was a good fighter and it was him who got me going in coaching.”
And David Lowrie, a multiple, unbeaten stable lads’ champion added: “John was a lovely guy and a really talented and tough fighter. He was one of the best.”
John, who lived in Newmarket, leaves a widow Amanda, and two daughters Milly, 16, and Connie, 15. He died in the John Farman intensive care unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and his family have asked that donations made in his memory should go to the unit.
His funeral service will be held at Newmarket’s Roman Catholic Church at noon on Thursday, March 8, and his family have invited his friends to share their memories at The Racing Centre, in Fred Archer Way, after the service.