Paddy Monaghan, a world champion bare-knuckle boxer who has died at the age of 73, had to keep his title winning success a secret – unlike his close friend Muhammad Ali.

Fighting opponents behind closed doors and keeping his winning belts under the bed in his Saxton Road council house in Abingdon, ‘The Rough Diamond’ had a friendship with The Greatest like no-one else.

The 73-year-old, who died in the John Radcliffe Hospital on April 9 after a period of ill health was an undefeated champion in 114 fights, winning the world middleweight title in 1974.

Born in in February 1944, in Ederney in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, to parents Mary Ann and Jim, Mr Monaghan's family moved to Abingdon where he grew up.

He married wife Sandra on May 5, 1965, and the couple had a son and four daughters.

Managed by BKB promoter Tommy Heard, the young fighter fought at a venue known as ‘the notorious barn’.

But for him there were no headlines, no hysteria and no screaming crowds.

His son Tyrone said: “He beat Jean Paul Durrell from Canada for the world title and I wanted to go to school and tell everyone but I couldn’t.

"He just pushed the belt underneath the bed, that is just how it was.”

Tyrone said reading about the American boxer was his father’s ‘college of knowledge’ and said he lost it when Ali refused to be drafted into the American forces at the time of the Vietnam war and he was unable to continue reading about him.

Mr Monaghan then led a single-man campaign for the return of Ali’s boxing licence in 1967.

He later met Ali, who thanked him for the support, in the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London.

It was a bond that remained unbroken for 40 years and on some 14 occasions the most famous fighter on the planet crossed the Atlantic to see Mr Monaghan, a father-of-five, who he came to regard as one of his closest friends.

In the days when heads of state and film stars waited in line to shake the hand of Ali, The Champ always found time to visit the Monaghan family at their Abingdon home.

Rolls Royces were not a common sight in Saxton Road, but residents in the council estate knew well enough why the superstar’s car would be parked outside number 111.

On August 13, 1983, Ali sparred with Mr Monaghan's son Tyrone – then 16 – in the garden of their modest Abingdon house.

Mr Monaghan was in the Ali corner during the bout with Al 'Blue' Lewis in Dublin in 1972 and for Ali’s second titanic battle with Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden in 1974.

The pair kept in touch until Ali’s death in June last year.

Mr Monaghan passed away holding wife Sandra’s hand and surrounded by family – son Tyrone, daughters Clare, 50, Saydee, 45, Belinda, 44 and Sarah, 41 – and others.