‘King of Sheffield’ collapsed and died on Spanish holiday to celebrate wife’s birthday

The heartbroken wife of a bare-knuckle fighter dubbed the ‘King of Sheffield’ has paid tribute after finding him dead on a bathroom floor aged 49.

By Alana Roberts
Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 3:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 3:14 pm

Willy Collins, who was known to many as Big Willy Collins, died earlier this month after collapsing while on holiday with his family in Port de Pollença on the Spanish island of Majorca.

The father-of-nine, who lived in Darnall, had flown out with other family members to celebrate his wife Kathleen's 48th birthday on July 3.

Now in the Spanish town of Inca, Kathleen is waiting for confirmation of a flight to bring her husband's body back to the UK.

Kathleen, who was holiday with her husband Willy to celebrate her 48th birthday, said he was loved by everyone

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She revealed how the pair met when she was 11-years-old and, although it wasn’t love at first sight for Kathleen, Willy told her then how he was going to marry her.

They tied the knot six years later when Kathleen was 17 and enjoyed over 30 years of marriage – renewing their wedding vows a further two times - before Willy’s sudden death on July 7.

Kathleen said: “While we were on holiday he got down on one knee in the restaurant and proposed to me again with another ring.

The 'King of Sheffield' Willy Collins has died in Majorca aged 49

“He was the love of my life and was a great father, he loved all his children and 11 grandchildren. We're all devastated.

"'I always used to say he was smooth in the middle but rough around the edges.

"He was a bare-knuckle boxer but never looked for trouble, he was more of a peacemaker.

"Everybody knew him for fighting, he was the King of Sheffield and was very well-respected. People used to call him the gentle giant – he would be the first person to pay for anything if somebody needed it and was just loved by everyone.”

A father-of-nine, Willy doted on all his children and grandchildren as well as his nieces and nephews

Willy, who was born in Ireland, moved to Sheffield in 1980 and grew up in Pitsmoor.

He used to train at Brendan Ingle's gym in Wincobank and would often jog miles across the city every day to get there.

One of 16 children, Willy was the patriarch of the Collins family and doted on his children and grandchildren, and well as his nieces and nephews.

Kathleen said: “His nephews didn’t class him as an uncle, they called him ‘father’ because he was always there to give you advice.”

After Willy's death, his body was taken away from the family to Palma for a post-mortem which revealed he died of natural causes after a bleeding ulcer in his stomach burst to cause a haemorrhage.

His body is now with a funeral director in Inca awaiting repatriation.

Tributes have flooded in for the ‘loveable rogue’ since his passing, with boxers such as Tyson Fury, Kell Brook and Billy Joe Saunders among those sending their condolences to his family.

Kathleen said she has received thousands of messages and wants everyone who knew Willy to attend his funeral in Sheffield which she says will be a celebration of his life.

Paying a final tribute to her late husband, she said: “Even though it’s so sad, I don’t think there was any nicer place he could have died. He died with me on holiday and we spent a lovely few days together. We laughed, drove around mountains, it was a beautiful holiday.

"I have lovely memories of him but it just breaks my heart. I wake up every morning and it’s like I’ve got a ton of bricks on my chest and I can’t breathe. I miss my children back in England but I'm dreading going back. Here I am close to him but every day it gets closer to going home it’s hurting me more. My life will never be the same.

"When I go home to Sheffield I know it’s going to hurt me more, I have that many memories with him – every street that we drove down, our home, his clothes in the wardrobe.

"I loved him dearly in life and I love him more and more in death.”

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