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Boxer inspired by the man who sparred with Ali; Penny's People.

Byline: Penny Fray

SOME things are said to be in the blood, and that's certainly true of boxing - that bloodiest of sports - according to one North Wales family.

When Spencer Lee Wilding steps into the ring as a professional boxer for the first time tonight he will be under the watchful eye of a relative who once sparred with the sport's greatest exponent, Muhammad Ali.

Former Welsh heavyweight champion Carl Gizzi, from Rhyl, came glove to glove, face to face, with the three times world champion.

That was in the 1960s as Ali - then Cassius Clay - was in Britain for a bout with British champion Henry Cooper.

Tonight, Carl, who has a window cleaning business, will be at the Epic Centre in Ellesmere Port cheering on Spencer, 29, his "cousin's lad", a former British and Welsh kick boxing champion who has decided to change codes.

"I suppose in many ways Carl has been my inspiration to have a go at boxing, " said Spencer, who has also done a bit of acting in London.

"To hear him talking about Ali is fascinating."

As 6ft 7in tall Spencer was out and about selling tickets for his debut cruiserweight clash with Adam McHale yesterday, Carl, just an inch shorter, recalled his meeting with Ali.

"I had three sparring sessions with him. He was an amazing, wonderful athlete.

"He was very hard to hit. It was his style, the way he leaned back, " said Carl.

"I was determined to catch him and I landed a very good jab. His reaction?

"Well, he tapped me on the head and said good boy. He was a class act, a wonderful champion."

Carl, who won 43 of his 54 professional fights, is convinced Spencer will do well. "He has the right mental attitude and is very fit, " he said.

Spencer, who still runs kick boxing classes, has been gearing up for his new career since last year.

"Obviously they are very different styles. Kick boxing is more square on and to get used to boxing I have been working hard in a gym in Chester. I just had a tickle in my brain to give it a go and I hope it works out, " said Spencer, who has never fought as an amateur.


FIGHTER: Carl Gizzi at 19 IN THE BLOOD: Spencer Lee Wilding, left, and his uncle, Carl Gizzi Picture: RICHARD WILLIAMS
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 8, 2002
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