Former boxer James Oyebola shot in face

Former Commonwealth Games medalist and British heavyweight champion James Oyebola was in critical condition in a London hospital Tuesday after being shot in the face outside a nightclub where he worked as a bouncer.

Oyebola was shot in the early hours of Monday morning after asking three men to stop smoking inside the club in London's Fulham district.

Detective Chief Inspector Scott Wilson of the Metropolitan Police said three suspects, aged between 19 and 25, ran from the club in separate directions.

"It is a horrible crime to happen anywhere but over nothing - an incident such as smoking - these people need to be caught," Wilson told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Tuesday.

Britain introduced a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces on July 1.

Oyebola, 46, won bronze at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in the super heavyweight division. He won the superheavyweight division of the Amateur Boxing Association of England in 1986 and '87 and was the British heavyweight champion from 1994 to 1996.

Known as "Big Bad," Oyebola won 18 fights, with 16 KOs, lost 4 and drew 1. He retired in 1996 and has been working as a boxing manager.

British Boxing Board of Control general secretary Simon Block said the Ghana-born Oyebola was "one of nature's gentlemen."

"To think of him lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life as a result of a cowardly and gutless attack by those who will not have been possessed of the same courage that he showed in the way he faced adversity, in and out of the ring, fills me with both sadness and dismay," Block said.