Boxing champ Amir Khan has given a personal tribute to his “oldest fan” Ada Gibson, following her death, aged 101.
Charity volunteer Ada, from Clayton-le-Moors, was an inspiration to all in the borough and beyond having raised thousands of pounds through sponsored swims and other challenges after learning to swim aged 75.
Back in 2008, Khan visited a thrilled Ada at her home after finding out that she was his biggest and oldest fan, and he has now paid tribute to her following the news of her death.
The former light-welterweight world champion said he had a very clear recollection of meeting Ada at her then home on Grange Street.
He told the Accrington Observer: “I remember exactly when I did meet her. It was nice to meet somebody who was such a big fan at the age she was, she was probably my oldest fan - that was one of the reasons I wanted to meet her.
“Normally I am hardly around that area, but I decided I wanted to go and see what she was like. She was over the moon when she opened the door. We had a really good chat, she was so nice and it was amazing that she understood everything about boxing at the age she was, and that was in her 90s.
“She was telling me about hoping she’d make it to 100 and saying she’d still watch me fight then.
“It made me really happy to meet someone like her and put a smile on her face.”
Bolton fighter Khan, who is about to resume training ahead of a potential return to the ring in April, revealed that boxing fan Ada even gave him some advice for future fights.
He added: “Maybe being from the north and a local lad was one of the things that made Ada like me and want to watch me fight.
“Ada gave me some good tips, she told me to keep my hands up, she said sometimes you get too brave and need to keep your guard up to stop getting hit. I remembered that.
She was a very sweet lady. She said every time she saw me get hit it hurt her as well.
“If I wasn’t in London I would be at the funeral to pay my respects. I will be sending flowers and my respects to her family.”
Ada’s daugher Barbara Wright said it was one of the highlights of her life when the former Olympic lightweight silver medallist visited at her then home on Grange Street in Clayton-le-Moors in 2008.
Barbara said: “She actually watched snooker and football but when Amir started boxing my mum took to him. She was absolutely thrilled to bits, she couldn’t believe that somebody so famous would come to her house and speak to her.
“He was the most humble man, no airs or graces just a really lovely person and it meant the world to my mum that he visited. Since then she looked on him as a son.”
Mayor of Hyndburn and Clayton-le-Moors councillor Tim O’Kane has also paid his tribute to a lifelong friend.
He said: “I’ve known Ada all my life and she attended my parents’ wedding in 1953. She was a charming woman who raised Clayton’s profile with her many charity events in later life.
“When other people put their feet up to enjoy their retirement she did the opposite. Only Ada could learn to swim at an age when she qualified for a free TV licence!
“She talked the town up with her letters to the Observer and always had a ready smile.”
He added: “I can admit to shedding a tear at the Northern Festival of Remembrance thinking about her when an artist sang Roses of Picardy.”
Ada’s funeral will take place at All Saints Church in Clayton-le-Moors on Thursday, November 17 at 10.45am followed by committal at Accrington Crematorium.
Flowers welcome to the Chapel of Rest or donations in memory of Ada on behalf of Cancer Research UK via Champ Funeral Services.