A DUDLEY taxi firm boss is among unsung heroes from the Black Country recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours for his heavyweight achievements in the sport of stone lifting.

Shahzada Saleem, known as King Shazad, was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to the traditional Asian sport.

Mr Saleem from Kingswinford has been hailed the greatest athlete ever seen in the sport which sees competitors lifting a massive stone block.

The 50-year-old grandfather, who runs Sedgley based Beacon Taxis and Express Taxis in Halesowen, said of the award: "This really is a honour, never in my dreams did I think I would ever be recognised in such way."

Following his retirement from the sport - King Shazad set up the Shazad Academy in Dudley to pass on his skills to the next generation and help keep youngsters off the streets, and the venture now has bases in Birmingham and Manchester as well.

Mr Saleem said: "I worked hard to be the best but then it became about trying to do something for everyone, especially our youngsters.

"I feel blessed and I will continue to do the work I do as my love for the sport will never die. I want to dedicate this honour to all those who believed in me and supported me."

Mr Saleem became the youngest world stone lifting champion ever in 1985 aged just 18 - and during a decade-long reign he enjoyed repeated record-breaking success.

In 1995 he became the first person to lift 201kg - a record that remained unbroken for 13 years.

The following year 50,000 people watched his final appearance in Pakistan before he retired from the sport due to lack of competition.

Then after a 14-year break from competing, he made a comeback at age 45 and lifted a massive 210kg in front of 10,000 fans at the 2010 Manchester Mela - becoming the oldest world champion ever seen in the sport.

In recognition of his achievements - the borough's Dudley Mela event was renamed the Shazad Mela and in 2010 he was presented with a lifetime achievement trophy by the Mayor of Dudley and the following year he scooped the borough's Duncan Edwards Award for Sport.

In 2014 he was presented with an 'iconic stone lifter' award at the House of Lords, by Lord Nazir Ahmed, and later that year he was invited by the Prime Minister David Cameron to Downing Street. He also picked up an Asian Sports Personality of the Decade Award in Birmingham last year.

But his proud son Shaz Saleem said Royal recognition was the icing on the cake.

He told the News: "This is a huge honour for my father - and for the sport of stone lifting to be recognised in this way is unbelievable.

"As a kid I used to go watch my dad as he was lifting in competitions, I'm his number one fan.

"He worked extremely hard to look after his five kids - and at the same time he was competing and training. His hard work has paid off and this honour caps his legacy."