YORK’S lord of the ring Henry Wharton has paid lavish tribute to “the main man” of British boxing.

Mickey Duff, Wharton’s manager who also guided 13 British boxers to world titles, died after a long illness. He was aged 83.

After signing his professional contract with Duff, Wharton went on to carve out an illustrious career.

In a talent-laden supermiddleweight division York’s ring-master reigned as undefeated European, Commonwealth and British champion. His only three losses in a decade-plus career were at the summit when he lost in world title challenges to Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Robin Reid.

Of the man who helped to guide him punching his weight among boxing greats, Wharton said: “When I was youngster watching boxing which I always loved, I would see Mickey Duff at all the top bouts.

“I said then that I wanted to be managed by him. “He was the main man of British boxing and wherever you went in the world people in boxing knew who Mickey Duff was and how influential he was.”

Wharton likened Duff’s influence on his career to that of his first York trainer, the late Bill Brown.

“They will both live with me forever. They were a major and influential part of my life and I’ll never forget them.”

York’s most successful professional boxer, who now runs his own “Henry’s Gym” at the former Regent Cinema in York Road, in Acomb, recalled how Londonbased Duff always wanted the young Wharton to decamp to the capital, where the legendary promoter oversaw the careers of Frank Bruno, John Conteh and Alan Minter.

“I always resisted because I just never wanted to leave York, even though Mickey always wanted me to go down there,” said Wharton.

“However, he was always knocked out by the amount of support I attracted from York and Yorkshire. He always appreciated just how many people got behind me.”

Wharton added that Duff’s vicelike influence on British and European boxing was being eased by other upcoming promoters when the York star aligned himself to Duff.

The promoter, manager and match-maker retired from the sport in 1999 - the same year that he was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

“I never got the full benefit of his influence, but there was a long time when Mickey Duff was the main man, not just in Britain, but across the world,” said Wharton.

“He always said he would have time to sleep when he was on an plane going from one country to another.

“And I remember him arriving in York after a plane journey from New York and he said ‘right, let’s go to work’. His energy was phenomenal.

“He was one of the best.”