Utah boxing legend Rex Layne was laid to rest Saturday.

The "Lewiston Larruper," a former top heavyweight contender with victories over eventual world champions Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott, died Wednesday -- on his 72nd birthday -- of a stroke.Following a successful stint in the military (where he won the Pacific armed forces heavyweight championship), Layne rose to boxing prominence in 1949 when he captured the national AAU title and defeated Golden Gloves champion Don Perko. After signing with famed West Jordan manager Marv Jenson, Layne embarked upon a professional career that led to top contender status following a victory over German champion Heinz Neuhaus in 1954. "Rowdy Rex," however, was never granted a shot at the title -- despite winning 96 of 103 bouts from 1949-57.

Jenson, who spoke at Layne's funeral, said managers steered their champions clear of the hard-hitting Utahn with knockout potential.

"In my heart, though," Jenson remarked. "He'll always be a champion."

Victories over Charles and Walcott, along with a hard-fought setback to Rocky Marciano at Madison Square Garden in New York City and a pair of four-round exhibitions against Joe Louis, were among Layne's most memorable moments as a professional.

"If I had it to do all over again, I'd probably try to work a little harder, I guess," Layne told the Deseret News in 1980 when he was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame. "But things went right. I had a super career and a million blessings."

Family and friends at Saturday's service acknowledged Layne was a tough competitor inside the ring. However, they also spoke fondly of his gentle, kind nature outside of it.

Layne, who was named one of Utah's top 50 athletes of the century by Sports Illustrated, is survived by his wife, two daughters, six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, four brothers and a sister.

Interment was at Mountain View Memorial Estates in Sandy.