ALAN HUBBARD, was one of the most talented journalists of his generation and such a compelling master of words he could write a note to the milkman and make it an interesting read.

He died last week aged 85 but I’m certainly not going to mourn my close mate of 55 years – instead I shall celebrate his long life and outstanding sports writing achievements.

There are many necessary elements that go towards the making of a great journalist. Having excellent writing skills is essential. Being able to think clearly and analytically, having extensive knowledge of the topics they cover, and to stay motivated and focussed are just some of them.

Alan ticked every one of those boxes. But it was also his integrity, the warmth of his personality, his laconic sense of humour and his ability to communicate at every level that endeared him to everyone who knew him.

What an amazing career the man had. It started nearly seven decades ago when at 17 he joined the Balham and Tooting News and Mercury.

From those humble beginnings it wasn’t long before he graduated to the national stage. He edited Sportsworld magazine, was sports editor of Now magazine, the Mail-on-Sunday, the Observer and the Singapore Straits Times.

Alan wrote incisive and award-winning columns for all those publications as well as the Independent on Sunday and the esteemed website Inside the Games.

And on a few occasions his wise and entertaining opinions lit up the pages of Boxing News.

He covered no less than 16 summer and winter Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games, world and European athletic championships, football World Cups, Wimbledon tennis and countless world title fights.

For years he carried out a vigorous campaign against South Africa’s odious apartheid regime and enthusiastically championed women’s and fringe sports.

I was always envious of Alan’s bulging contacts book because he knew everyone who was worth knowing from the powerful administrators – and did he give some of them some right stick – to the athletes who made the headlines.

He was invited by IOC member Princess Anne to interview her at her Gloucestershire home. He rubbed shoulders with Nelson Mandela, he had the ear of every Sports Minister from the first, Lord Denis Howell back in the 1960’s and had a rapport with Sir Hugh Robertson, Chairman of the British Olympic Association and Boris Johnson in his Mayor of London days.

And when Lord Sebastian Coe, President of World Athletics and a double 1500 metres Olympic champion was an unknown teenage Loughborough University economics student, Alan gave him a bed for the night at his Surrey home after he’d raced at Crystal Palace.

Alan was no cheerleader and he didn’t suffer fools gladly. His criticisms were valid which is why those on the receiving end respected his views.

Despite all the momentous sporting occasions he was involved with boxing was by far his greatest love.

His oldest pal in boxing was the late Bobby Neill, former British featherweight champion who he got close to after covering one of his fights at Streatham Ice Rink for his local paper.

When Bobby became a manager and trainer he shared a flat with two of his fighters, Alan Rudkin, British bantamweight champion and featherweight contender Frankie Taylor – that was one way of getting exclusive stories.

Alan was close to a multitude of British champions from several eras. Sir Henry Cooper, Terry Downes, John Conteh, Johnny Pritchett, Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan, James DeGale and George Groves were just a few of them.

Muhammad Ali was his hero and we shared so many memorable experiences following him from Wembley Stadium, Highbury, Earls Court, Madison Square Garden, New York, The Rumble in the Jungle, in Zaire, the Thrill’a in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Dublin, Munich and Las Vegas.

We never forgot the morning when Ali gave us a tour of his mansion off LA’s Wilshire Boulavard, He then took us into his study and entertained us with his magic tricks and his levitation masterpiece.

There are so many incredible stories we could tell about Ali but here are a few Alan particularly enjoyed telling.

At the Fight of the Century – Ali’s first encounter with Joe Frazier at the Garden, Alan went to the loo – no I didn’t go with him – when he came back he was wide eyed and shaking his head.

I said “What’s your problem?”. He said “You’re not going to believe this but when I looked at the guy two stalls from me I did a double-take – it was Frank Sinatra.” Sinatra had got himself a media accreditation and was taking pictures of the fight for Life magazine. I gather whatever Frank was doing he was doing it his way.

It was on that trip John Condon, the Garden’s press chief got us an interview with Burt Lancaster who was a co-commentator for the closed-circuit TV of the fight.

When Burt arrived for the interview I looked at Alan and Alan looked at me. He was wearing full-make-up – eye shadow, the lot. Neither of us had the balls to ask Burt why he was walking around like that.

There was an unforgettable experience for the pair of us when we went to cover the  Ali-Al Blue Lewis fight in Ireland. Because our flight from Heathrow was delayed we missed the press conference Ali had given as soon as he landed at Dublin airport from New York. We raced to the country club where he was staying to learn from Angelo Dundee a knackered Ali had gone to bed for the day.

We moaned to Dundee we were both going to be in trouble for not getting an interview with him. Without blinking an eye Angelo said “Don’t worry guys – let’s go and wake the champ up.”

He wasn’t joking. Angelo hammered on Ali’s bedroom door until we heard muffled moans coming from inside. When eventually bleary-eyed he opened the door Angelo said, “the British press are here to see you.”

We thought Ai would be spitting feathers but he wasn’t in the least bit angry – in fact he seemed delighted to see us. He said, “Come in fellas what do you want to know?”

We sat with him for more than two hours and left when our notebooks were full. Can you imagine Anthony Joshua’s or Tyson Fury’s reaction if they were awakened from a deep sleep and asked to give a couple of today’s boxing writers’ an interview? That’s another reason why Ali was The Greatest.

Alan wasn’t ashamed to admit that he broke down in tears as he watched Ali being humiliated and beaten up by Larry Holmes on that heart-breaking night in the Caesars Palace car park.

Within hours of Alan’s death the tributes began pouring in from media colleagues who had worked with him and for him and also from various sporting personalities.

Lord Coe said, “He was fearsome with facts and fanatically fair “. Brilliant broadcasters Ian Darke and John Rawling were among the first to pay tribute.

Ian said “Alan was one of the best and most perceptive journalists and editors. A man whose insights were always on the money.” And John added “One of the great journalists and editors of old Fleet Street – a great friend of boxing.”

Leading promoter Frank Warren said, “I knew Alan for more than 40 years – part from his obvious journalistic talent I have never once heard anyone say a bad word about him.”

There are a few prima-donnas in our trade but Alan didn’t have an ounce of ego in him. I know every member his  family and they can be proud  that their father and grandfather because of his professionalism was held in such high regard by his peers.

We reckoned we covered sport in nearly 50 countries and we definitely spent hundreds of hours together on airplanes in restaurants, coffee shops and hotel bars attempting to put the world of sport and politics to rights.

To me Alan wasn’t just a friend – I regarded him as my second brother. I take comfort in the following sentiment “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

I shall miss him terribly – and so will a lot of other people.