Johnny Famechon, right, in Melbourne with Muhammad Ali in 1998

Sydney (AFP) - French-born Australian boxing legend Johnny Famechon, who became world featherweight champion during a short but stunning career, has died aged 77, officials said Thursday.

Famechon was considered one of Australia’s greatest boxers, becoming WBC featherweight champion in 1969 after he beat Cuban Jose Legra on points at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

He defended his title twice against Japan’s former world flyweight and bantamweight king Fighting Harada over a career that saw him win 56 of his 67 professional fights, including 20 knockouts.

He retired at just 25 after surrendering his title to Mexican Vicente Saldivar in 1970.

“I am so sorry to learn of the passing away of Australian boxing icon Johnny Famechon,” WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said on Twitter. “May he rest in eternal peace.”

Born Jean-Pierre Famechon in Paris before his parents migrated to Australia when he was five, he was known for his silky defensive skills which earned him the nicknamed “poetry in motion”.

“You talk about them doing state funerals for certain people, if anyone deserves one then ‘Fammo’ certainly does,” fellow Australian boxer Jeff Fenech, who won world titles in three weight divisions, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“He was beautiful to watch, just so skilful. He was like Floyd Mayweather, one of those guys who hit and never got hit.”

Famechon suffered a stroke and an acquired brain injury in 1991 when he was hit by a car in Sydney, but returned to near full health. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.