'Rest well champ': Tributes paid to Blackpool boxer Frank Varey who has died aged 16

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Tributes have been paid to Blackpool's "future world champion" boxer, Frank Varey, who has died at the age of 16.

Frank Varey's body was found on Thursday night (July 22) more than five hours after a search was launched in the River Dee in Chester.

The 16-year-old has been described as one of the brightest talents in British boxing, winning five national championships and six international titles in his youth.

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Tributes have flooded in for the "talented and popular" boxing star - who recently represented England at the European Junior Championships 2019 in Galati, Romania.

Writing on Instagram, world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury said: "RIP Frank. Was a future world champ. May God be with your family."

Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell MBE also paid tribute to the young star on Twitter, posting: "RIP Frank Varey. Rest well champ, thoughts with all your friends and family."

England Boxing chief executive officer, Gethin Jenkins, said: “England Boxing has been devastated to hear the news of Frank’s death, with our coaches, in particular, having got to know him very well during his boxing development.

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"He was a very talented boxer, multiple National Champion and a member of our England set-up and Talent Pathway, proudly representing his country in the 2019 Euros. Although young, he had clearly demonstrated much promise.

Frank Varey had won several national championships. (Pic credit: Andy Chubb)Frank Varey had won several national championships. (Pic credit: Andy Chubb)
Frank Varey had won several national championships. (Pic credit: Andy Chubb)

"He was also a very popular character with his fellow boxers and those who coached him, bringing a sense of fun to everything he did. He will leave a huge gap in people’s lives."

England Talent coach John Stubbs described Varey as a "larger than life character".

He said: "I've never met anyone that could lose a hotel key 27 times in the first two days of the trip, or anyone with the pre-bout ritual he had.

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"No boy should lose their life at 16. This is a sad day for the boxing community and my thoughts are with big Frank and the family."

Fellow England Talent coach Shiney Singh added: "Absolutely heartbroken even writing this. The absolute bundle of life Frank Varey taken from us.

"Only yesterday he was in the gym looking a million dollars and there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to smash the Euro selections. He was the life of the gym and lit up the room.

"There was no doubt in my mind he was going to do great things and in such a small amount of time he made such a big impact and will be greatly missed."

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Rhoose Boxing Club, where Frank would train with his dad every summer, said: "It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to one of our England boxers, Frank Varey, who sadly passed away this afternoon after he drowned in Cheshire river.

"He was a very promising young boxer as he was England’s number one, as well as Britain’s and Europe’s number one as well.

"Frank will very much be in our thoughts and so will his family and friends. RIP Frank. We miss you."

Holy Trinity ABC in Belfast, Northern Ireland, tweeted: "We are all so saddened to hear of the passing of the very talented Frank Varey of Sharpstyle boxing club.

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"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Varey family and friends at this terrible time.

"RIP champ."

The teenager was reported missing at about 2.30pm, before Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed they had found a body at 8pm.

The emergency services had been searching the river near Lower Park Road, with the river bank and Queen's Park suspension bridge closed as part of the search.

In a statement, Chester Police said: "The 16-year-old was reported missing at around 2.30pm on Thursday 22 July after he disappeared while swimming in the River Dee.

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"Extensive searches have been taking place throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Search teams found a body in the river shortly before 8pm.

"Formal identification has not yet taken place but it is believed to be that of the missing boy.

"The teenager's family have been informed and they are being supported by specially trained officers."

It comes as emergency services warned of the invisible, deadly dangers associated with open water after six people drowned in English lakes and rivers over the weekend.

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Supt Myra Ball added: "Sadly this is the second river death that we have seen this week in the county.

"This appears to be another tragic accident and our thoughts are with the boy’s family at this very difficult time."

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