Chris Eubank found guilty of taking a beer delivery truck

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But a court heard yesterday that they had not reckoned on the forceful personality of one of the city's more flamboyant residents, Chris Eubank.

The former world champion boxer was convicted of taking a vehicle without consent after he threatened to "deck" the driver of the beer lorry and drove off with the vehicle, colliding with a road sign before coming to a halt.

After a career spent displaying his talent for confrontation in locations from Madison Square Garden to the Big Brother house, Eubank paid for his latest brush with controversy with an absolute discharge and an order to pay £450 costs.

The incident happened on 21 February this year, when Eubank, 39, was driving his children to school.

The retired boxer, famed for his cod philosophising and taste for country dress, later claimed that his behaviour had been the "gentlemanly thing to do".

Brighton Magistrates' Court heard that the former WBO super-middleweight champion had run up to the 35ft-long Scottish Courage delivery lorry amid the sound of beeping from irate motorists.

Gary Chandler, one of the delivery men, told the court: "I recognised him to be Chris Eubank. His exact words were, 'What are you doing, you fucking prick?'

"He asked us if we would move the lorry, and we were trying to explain that we were almost done. He wasn't happy with this, and said he was going to move the lorry himself."

Eubank was accused of climbing into to the cab and repeatedly turning the ignition key while the draymen struggled with him. Jim Webb-Bowen, the lorry driver, told the hearing: "The last time I tried to grab the key, he said, 'You do that again and I'll deck you.' I stepped back and shouted to call the police."

The court heard that the boxer, who has sought to carve out a niche as television's philosopher pugilist with appearances on Celebrity Big Brother and a Channel Five docu-soap about his family, then succeeded in starting up the lorry and, after stalling once, drove it 150 yards.

Mr Webb-Bowen said he saw the vehicle clip a road sign before coming to a halt. When the lorry was examined, £200 of damage was found to its tarpaulin side curtain and bumper.

The court was told that Eubank, dressed in a black suit with metallic buttons and pink shirt, was arrested after he returned to the scene in his black Hummer - an outsize American 4x4 based on the military Humvee.

When arrested, Eubank protested his innocence by explaining that he had been conducting a service for the community.