AS A former British and world middle-weight boxing champion, Cornelius Carr suffered only four defeats (out of 39 matches) in his professional career.

But the biggest fight of his life was when he was diagnosed with meningitis at just nine years old.

Cornelius, now 41, has only vague memories of the devastating illness that left him battling for survival in intensive care for three weeks and in need of hospital treatment for several months afterwards.

“I was delirious at the time so I don’t remember much about it apart from what my sister tells me.

“All I remember is waking up in hospital and seeing my father stood at the end of my bed,” he says.

Cornelius who was raised in the north-east and moved to Bournemouth in 2001, had been away for a week on a Scout camp but developed flu-like symptoms on his return home.

“It just came out of the blue. I’d had a fantastic time. My mum called the doctor who said it was flu but fortunately my neighbour popped round and suggested they got a second opinion.”

Within minutes of the second examination, Cornelius was in an ambulance and being rushed to hospital.

“My mum probably wouldn’t have got a second opinion if my neighbour hadn’t popped round.

“Another 48 hours and it could have been a very different story.

“I was lucky to survive or that I didn’t lose a limb.”

It took almost a year for Cornelius to make a full recovery – the only physical sign of his ordeal is a three-inch cyst at the top of his right arm.

“I’ve been told that as long as it doesn’t bother me then it’s not worth doing anything about so I’ve just left it all these years and it’s not caused me any problem.”

Cornelius has since hung up his battered boxing gloves and now helps others people fulfil their health goals.

“Meningitis is a very dangerous illness that can affect anyone at anytime,” he says.

“The sooner it is diagnosed the better your chances are of survival so anything that can help raise awareness is a good thing.”

For more information about meningitis, you can speak to a specially trained nurse on the Trust’s freephone available 24-hours a day (0800 028 18 28) or visit the website meningitis-trust

• The Echo’s Nicky Findley is running the London Marathon to raise funds for the Meningitis Trust.

If you could support the cause, please visit website