Newcastle, Sunderland, and now Darlington, are proving, over time, to be hotbeds within professional boxing.
Darlington has enjoyed a flourishing amateur scene in recent years, more so at the gyms ran by Andy Marksby, and Paul Hamilton (previously at DBMA at the Echo Arena), with Troy Williamson the most recognised to have turned over in recent times.
Now, Tyneside promoter-manager, Steve Wraith continues to make an impact in the County Durham town, along with Peter Shepperson, who took over from Hamilton at DBMA.
Having added management abilities to his repertoire Wraith cut his teeth with then-returning Darlington favourite, Neil Hepper who, after a spell in the wilderness, is now on the cusp of titles; he also added Carl Wilson to the mix and took the sport back to the Dolphin Centre last November.
Hepper has recently been joined in the Darlington fold by Mark Downing (who’ll debut in December), Chrissy Wood, Richard O’Neill, another debutant, Ellis Corrie, the latter trio, along with Chris Burton, under Shepperson’s tutelage (he also trains world title challenger Stuart Hall).
“I’ve been here for three years now and took out my pro licence at the start of this year because Chrissy asked me to,” began Shepperson.
“Because of that I’ve been helping Stuey (Hall) who I’ve known for years and got involved with Steve (Wraith).
“The lads are in the gym all the time which is good as they not only want to stay in shape but they want to fight regularly as well, which is what we are doing.”
Chrissy, who returned to the ring at St James’ Park after a four year hiatus, already has one and possibly another, fight lined up between now and the end of the year.
Defeating Russ Midgley over four last time out he steps up to eight in Sheffield on October 13 (Sam Sheedy’s Commonwealth undercard) against undefeated home fighter, Ramzy Nassa he added: “I never wanted to walk away though and always wanted to get back in there and box again.
“Knowing of (Neil) Hepper and (Carl) Wilson, and what people like Steve (Wraith) are doing in the area helped me make up my mind to return.
“I want to win titles though and to be in for the Area title within twelve months. Actions speak louder than words though and I believe I’m good enough.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with Stuey Hall (who’s training for the Matchroom show on Tyneside later this month) and that’s good for me as he’s really good at what he does and still has a lot to give.”
O’Neill meanwhile spent the early years of his career at Hartlepool’s Gus Robinson’s Gym before recently taking the option to break contract and move from Hartlepool to Darlington in the search for more opportunities.
“I want more fights, to be out regular and competing in the ring,” stated O’Neill.
“I was last out in March against a lad that was 6’ 5” and it was a fight I shouldn’t have taken really, had all sorts of issues in the build-up.
“Now, not only will I go on the road, I want to start challenging for the Area title in the near future and have what, five or six fights next year.”
The unknown quantity, and most recent addition to Wraith’s stable is Ellis Corrie, a former Muay Thai champion who has won titles at home, and abroad, during a stellar career.
Changing sports has been an interesting transition and, as he looks to fast-track himself into the title mix, it’ll be interesting to see what he does next, his debut scheduled for Darlington later this year.
He added: “I’ve just been playing the waiting game and training just as a boxer for a few months now.
“I’m ready to go now and want at least one fight before the end of the year, maybe more.
“I’m willing to go on the road as I’ve travelled around the globe anyway and had similar calibre fighters whilst doing five, three minute rounds as it is.”
All five of Steve’s fighters will be appearing at the Dolphin Centre’s Xmas Cracker on the afternoon of Saturday December 2 with standard tickets £37.50 and VIP (which includes a one course xmas dinner) at £55, tickets available from all fighters or from www.proboxingnewcastlegateshead.com
Published in the Sunday Sun