1,000 travellers pay respects to boxer Frank Varey who died in river as Tyson Fury leads tributes


More than 1,000 emotional travellers paid their respects to a teenage boxing star, dubbed a future world champion by Tyson Fury, who died while swimming in a heatwave.  

The body of promising 16-year-old boxer Frank Varey was pulled from the River Dee in Cheshire two weeks ago, after he entered the water during the nation’s scorching heat wave.  

The teenage boxing sensation had posted a photo of himself by the riverside just hours before his death, as a desperate search and rescue effort was launched.   

Tributes have since flooded in for the ‘talented and popular’ young sportsman, who represented England at the European Junior Championships 2019 in Galati, Romania and had won several National Championships titles.

Heavyweight fighter Fury was among those to remember the teenager, as he said: ‘RIP Frank. Was a future world champ.’ 

More than 1,000 tearful mourners paid their respects to teenage boxing star Frank Varey, 16, during his funeral in Heysham, Lancs

The body of 16-year-old boxing star Frank Varey was pulled from the River Dee in Cheshire during the summer heatwave just two weeks ago

The body of 16-year-old boxing star Frank Varey was pulled from the River Dee in Cheshire during the summer heatwave just two weeks ago

The estimated 1,5000 people in attendance watched on in the light rain as the horses, (centre) decorated in pink and blue plumes, pulled his coffin into Heysham Free Methodist Church

The estimated 1,5000 people in attendance watched on in the light rain as the horses, (centre) decorated in pink and blue plumes, pulled his coffin into Heysham Free Methodist Church

More than 1,000 mourners shed ‘buckets of tears’ as Frank’s coffin was brought to Heysham Free Methodist Church in Heysham, Lancs in a horse drawn hearse.  

The estimated 1,500 people in attendance watched on in the rain as the horses, decorated in pink and blue plumes, pulled his coffin into the church, shortly followed by a giant pink cross made up of flowers. 

Frank’s peers wore pink T-shirts with tributes to him on the back, and carried with them three boxing belts – with more customised belts expected to arrive from Fury and fellow boxing icon Amir Khan.

Frank's peers wore pink T-shirts with tributes to him on the back, and carried with them three boxing belts - with more customised belts expected to arrive from Fury and fellow boxing icon Amir Khan

Frank’s peers wore pink T-shirts with tributes to him on the back, and carried with them three boxing belts – with more customised belts expected to arrive from Fury and fellow boxing icon Amir Khan

A giant pink cross made up entirely of flowers shortly followed behind Varey's open display coffin (pictured above)

A giant pink cross made up entirely of flowers shortly followed behind Varey’s open display coffin (pictured above)

Pastor Mark Johnstone said: ‘The world would be a better place if we had more people like Frank in this world.

‘He was such a special person inside and outside of the ring.’

His father Frank, mother Sarah-Jane and four brothers and sisters were followed into the church by his cousins.

In a statement after his death, the family said: ‘We are devastated beyond words, Frank was a legend in the boxing world and in life. May our Young King live on forever.’

Frank had told friends of his ambitions to turn pro on his 18th birthday – telling anyone who would listen he would one day ‘have a big green belt around my waist’. 

Heartbreaking footage shows Frank Varey enjoying himself with friends in Cheshire just hours before his death. The 16-year-old, originally from Blackpool, died while swimming in the River Dee in Handbridge, just south of Cheshire, on Thursday afternoon

Most in attendance wore a salmon-coloured pink to the funeral, a common mark of respect within the travelling communities

Heartbreaking footage shows Frank Varey enjoying himself with friends in Cheshire just hours before his death. The 16-year-old, originally from Blackpool, died while swimming in the River Dee in Handbridge, just south of Cheshire

One of his boxing trainers told the congregation: ‘I cried buckets of tears when he passed away.

‘Frank was such a special person and fighter. He was already a legend even though he was only 16.’

The service heard that ‘ladies man’ Frank started boxing aged just five and had his first fight when he was eight in Ireland.

However his first ‘proper fight’ took place in Denmark when he was 11, which he won. 

A handful of local shops and the coastal town's health centre closed for the day in the wake of the influx of travellers, with Lancashire police issuing warnings about possible disruption on the roads

A handful of local shops and the coastal town’s health centre closed for the day in the wake of the influx of travellers, with Lancashire police issuing warnings about possible disruption on the roads

The procession slowly weaves through the streets of the coastal town of Heysham, Lancs, with more than 1,000 mourners in tow

The procession slowly weaves through the streets of the coastal town of Heysham, Lancs, with more than 1,000 mourners in tow

A handful of local shops and the coastal town’s health centre closed for the day in the wake of the influx of travellers, with Lancashire police issuing warnings about possible disruption on the roads.

Many locals came to pay their respects on the day.

Mother-one Kirsty Ward, 41, said: ‘It is such an impressive sight.

‘It was very emotional hearing the things people said about him and seeing so many of his friends in pink.

Tributes have since flooded in for the 'talented and popular' young sportsman, who represented England at the European Junior Championships 2019 in Galati, Romania and had won several National Championships titles

Tributes have since flooded in for the ‘talented and popular’ young sportsman, who represented England at the European Junior Championships 2019 in Galati, Romania and had won several National Championships titles

Heavyweight fighter Tyson Fury was among those to remember the teenager, as he said: 'RIP Frank. Was a future world champ'. Fury was not in attendance today

Heavyweight fighter Tyson Fury was among those to remember the teenager, as he said: ‘RIP Frank. Was a future world champ’. Fury was not in attendance today

‘My heart goes out to his family.’

A wake was due to take place later and it was expected that bare-knuckle fights will take place in his honour.

Wiping away tears, one mourner told MailOnline: ‘He was such a special boy.

‘He was taken far too soon. He would have become a world champion – the best of us.’

Previously, England Boxing said Frank, who is believed to be originally from Blackpool, represented his country at the European Junior Championships 2019 in Galati, Romania and won several National Championships titles.

England Talent coach John Stubbs said: ‘Frank was a larger than life character.

‘I’ve never met anyone that could lose a hotel key 27 times in the first two days of the trip, or anyone with the pre-bout ritual he had.

One of Frank's boxing trainers told the congregation: ¿I cried buckets of tears when he passed away'

One of Frank’s boxing trainers told the congregation: ‘I cried buckets of tears when he passed away’

Family and friends walk behind a house-drawn hearse carrying Frank Varey's coffin outside the Free Methodist Church in Haysham

Family and friends walk behind a house-drawn hearse carrying Frank Varey’s coffin outside the Free Methodist Church in Haysham

Frank's peers wore pink T-shirts with tributes to him on the back, and carried with them personalised boxing belts (pictured)

Frank’s peers wore pink T-shirts with tributes to him on the back, and carried with them personalised boxing belts (pictured)

‘No boy should lose their life at 16. This is a sad day for the boxing community and my thoughts are with big Frank and the family.’

Fellow England Talent coach Shiney Singh added: ‘Absolutely heartbroken even writing this. The absolute bundle of life Frank Varey taken from us.

‘Only yesterday he was in the gym looking a million dollars and there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to smash the Euro selections. He was the life of the gym and lit up the room.

‘There was no doubt in my mind he was going to do great things and in such a small amount of time he made such a big impact and will be greatly missed.’

He added: ‘He was an unbelievably talented boxer who I believe would’ve gone on to become a future superstar.’

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