Former boxing champion Gary Mason is killed in cycling accident at age 48

Tributes were paid yesterday to the former British heavyweight boxing champion Gary Mason, who was killed in a cycling accident in south London.

Mason, 48, was on his bicycle when he was involved in a collision with a van on Thursday morning. The retired fighter was pronounced dead at the scene in Sandy Lane South, Wallington. A man was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and bailed until March pending further inquiries.

Mason's contemporary Frank Bruno, another former world heavyweight champion, said: "I had a lot of respect for the guy. We used to spar together in the early days. Gary was probably a better technical boxer than me, although I had more determination. That's why I made it and he didn't. It was his technical ability that spurred me on to work harder."

In a 38-fight career, Mason lost only once, but it was this defeat that spelt the end of what had been a promising future in the sport. Having spent his early fights in the shadow of Bruno, the unbeaten Mason appeared on the cusp of a world title bout when he took on Lennox Lewis at Wembley Arena in 1991 for the British and European belts. For both men, the fight would be something of a crossroads.

Lewis stopped Mason in the seventh round, confirming his arrival on the world stage and went on to become undisputed champion of the world. Mason sustained further damage to an eye injury he had picked up the previous year, all but ending his career.

He led a varied life after his retirement, with a spell as a pundit for Sky Sports and a brief venture with rugby league side London Broncos.

The promoter Frank Maloney said: "If he was around today he would have dominated the heavyweight division ... but he was around at the wrong time. I'm very sad. It's a great loss, not just to boxing but to life in general.

"He was one of the nice guys of boxing. And he did great work for charity. People don't realise the amount of work he did for charity."

Dave Davies, a sports agent who looked after Mason in the mid-1990s, said: "He was a real character, a south London boy trying to do well. He was a bit of a handful but a great guy."

Mason was separated from the mother of his teenage son, Jordan. A post-mortem examination will be held at St Helier Hospital mortuary and an inquest will be opened at Croydon Coroner's Court.