A VOLUNTEER boxing coach has been left feeling completely floored after he was the victim of a nasty unprovoked attack.

Robert Ellis was walking through Durham City centre, early on Sunday evening, when he was punched from behind and knocked to the ground.

The 60-year-old, from Spennymoor, said the senseless attack has left him bloodied, bruised and shaken.

Mr Ellis, founder and director of coaching at Spennymoor Boxing Academy, was getting a takeaway coffee with friend Paul Hodgson at about 5.30pm when the assault took place.

As they passed Boots, in the Market Place, two men walked up behind Mr Ellis and punched him to the side of his face, causing him to fall to the floor.

He said: "I didn't even see them, I was knocked to the ground but didn't see who by and couldn't understand why.

"All I can remember is trying to get up off the floor and people coming over to help me.

"My legs kept giving way, I was freezing and shivering, I think my eyes were shut, I just didn't know what to do with myself.

"Hodgy was two or three yards away and said he heard the thud when I hit the floor."

A patrolling police officer who was in the area at the time stopped with Mr Ellis, whilst another officer gave chase along Silver Street but the suspects made off.

Mr Ellis, a dad-of-two with three grandchildren, said the city centre was busy at the time as festive markets had just closed.

He said: "There is never any excuse for that sort of behaviour but to attack a 60-year-old stranger, minding their own business and drinking a coffee with a friend is unbelievable. There were traders and families in the area.

"Whoever did this must be the coward of the county."

Mr Ellis was transported by another officer to the University Hospital of North Durham with injuries that required stitching the next day.

He ended up with a badly burst lip, a bump to the head, bruised arm and is still aching from the fall days later.

But it the mental impact that has scarred him most.

"I've lost sleep, I keep getting up in the night questioning it all. I just cannot get it out of my head.

"It was completely unprovoked– I didn't even see the lads let alone know them. Why would anyone do that?

"I honestly keep thinking if I wasn't fit it could have killed me."

As a former England amateur boxer and a coach for almost 30 years, Mr Ellis is passionate about using the sport to teach self discipline.

The club he runs at Spennymoor Leisure Centre has helped hundreds of young people keep fit, achieve in the sport and use their spare time productively.

In 2012 he was a torchbearer for the Olympic flame relay before the London 2012 Olympic Games. And in 2003 he won the npower Leading Light prize at The Northern Echo's Local Heroes Awards, after receiving a record number of nominations.

Mr Ellis said he has raised concerns with Durham police after being informed at the scene there were no police officers available in the city to try to find his attacker.

He had also called his wife Diane to drive through to Durham to take him to hospital after being advised it could take two hours to get an ambulance, before the police were able to help.

The window cleaner hopes, by speaking out, witnesses or anyone with CCTV from surrounding premises will come forward to help identify the suspects.

A spokesman from Durham Constabulary said: "This was a horrific unprovoked assault which has left the victim understandably shaken. I would like to appeal directly to anyone who may have witnessed this assault."

Anyone with information is asked to call Durham police on 101 quoting 367 of December 2.