11 years ago this week (January 6) we read the sad news that British heavyweight warrior Gary Mason had been killed in a cycling accident at the age of just 48. Mason was hit by a van, the driver accused of reckless driving. It was sad and it was disturbing; how a brave fighting man who navigated the pitfalls of the ring could be so cruelly taken.
Jamaican-born Mason, a big, durable fighter with clubbing power, was second only to the cherished Frank Bruno when it came to the most popular British heavyweight of the 1990s. Mason should perhaps have achieved more than he did. Mason, never fast on his feet but possessing deceptively fast hands and reflexes, battled with weight (he tried for years to get under the 17stone mark, finally doing so in his losing fight with Lennox Lewis) and with eye problems. It was not too long after a big win over Tyrell Biggs, in 1989, that Mason needed surgery for a detached retina.
After a win over ‘King of the Journeymen,’ Everett “Bigfoot” Martin,” Mason had nine months out of the ring and he went under the knife. When he came back for the biggest fight of his career, this the European/British title showdown with future great Lewis, Mason was closing in on a world title shot. But he lost to Lewis, painfully – his eye busted up (Gary later said it felt like he was getting hit by a “red-hot poker in my eye” during the final agonizing minutes of his 7th round stoppage loss to Lewis).
Retirement came for the man who had ruled as British champ since January of 1989 (having beaten Trevor Hughroy Currie to take the title; Currie being another fighter to pass away far too young) – and with it the loss of potential £millions. Who knows how far Mason might have gone had his eye not failed him (the Lewis fight had been quite close on the cards at the time of the stoppage)?
Mason did try a brief comeback, winning two fights against low-key opposition whilst boxing in America, but the return went nowhere. Mason proved to be a good boxing pundit, working for some time for Sky Sports. Mason also tried his hand at rugby and he ran a jewelry shop called ‘Punch ‘n Jewellery.’ Who knows what Mason would be up to today at age 59?
Mason was a good guy, liked by all, and he lost only to an all-time great. Mason might be one of the best British heavyweights never to have fought for a world title. Gary finished up with a very respectable 37-1(34) record.