Night of Champions – Round Two. Boxing, soldiers and the peoples champions working in unison to fight cancer

When the governor of the Saucy Kettle pub in Surbiton, Frank Bartley, said to me a few months back that he would like for me to be a guest of his at a charity event, I thought to myself, ‘Brilliant!’ Having worked in the voluntary sector as a professional for 13 years, I certainly understand the merits of hosting fundraisers such as these, and commend everybody involved. However, I often find myself refusing to attend these types of events on the grounds that I either genuinely don’t have the time, or it’s a format I’ve seen a thousand times over. This was certainly not one of those nights.


The evening was organised by John Murphy, who is not only a principal figure for the charitable arm of the WBC, but is something of an unsung philanthropic hero. Generating a plethora of prizes (many of which he was bidding on generously himself!), the evening provisionally looks like it has generated tens of thousands of pounds for the fantastic Royal Marsden Cancer Charity – a cause which needs no introduction, but certainly warrants those essential funds.


The audience was a mix of generous invitees ranging from generous members of the public, to some of the most highly decorated soldiers to have ever donned a soldiers uniform such as Mick Flynn. The boxing fraternity also came en masse. World championship talent was in abundance, as the likes of Colin McMillan, Glenn Catley, Terrible Tim Witherspoon, Craig Whyatt and Errol Bomber Graham gave up their time and efforts for free to ensure the evening was a premium success.  Special mentions to Adam Martin from Surbiton ABC for working the corner all night, and acting with the utmost professionalism, and also John ‘The Gorilla’ Ryder for refereeing a number of bouts.


After an outstanding dinner served by none other than a number of police officers and soldiers, an evening of boxing exhibitions and bouts took over the focus of the audience. There were a number of fights on the evening, but I’d like to pick out three which made an impression on me. Firstly – pro boxer Craig Whyatt versus Tricky (from Massive Attack!). As the bell  rung for the first round, Tricky came out firing the jab, obviously putting his hard earned skills into full effect, before Craig threw out an uppercut to remind him that firstly, he’s in the ring with a pro, but secondly that he needs to keep his guard tight! After a sterling effort from Tricky, the ref edged it to Craig. A rematch might be in the pipeline at the time of writing…


The penultimate bout of the evening featured the local folk hero I had interviewed a couple of weeks prior, Matt Fanthom, versus the ex heavyweight champ, Julius Francis. Although very tense in the first round, Matt loosened up somewhat in rounds two and three and seemed to have some success in close quarters with body shots, and hooks. His jab became more fluid, and he seemed to find a comfortable range with big Julius towards the end. Shame the fight didn’t have an extra couple of rounds, because it was an entertaining six minutes. The verdict – a well earned draw for both fighters, and peoples champions for the night.


Catching a few words with Matt, whilst breathing out of his nose and ears, I asked his trainer Pete Vearncombe how proud he was of him. ‘Extremely proud. It’s a shame we didn’t have a longer training camp as he was getting better and better. He did extremely well and his punches really started to flow towards the end’.  On asking Matt his views on the bout he said, ‘I think I did ok. My main worry that I was running out of gas, but thankfully I had enough in the tank. I was a little concerned about getting in too close into Julius range, but with my son and daughter’s names Kailin and Kieran respectively on each one my hand wraps, they took away any concerns and fuelled me with the courage to take Julius on.’


The final bout was between Alex Hennesy and two time heavyweight world champion Terrible Tim Witherspoon. The fight was certainly value for money, with Alex relentless for the full three rounds. Tim made him work every second, and by the final bell, Alex was not only exhausted, but was met by a massive applause for putting on a sterling performance against a heavyweight legend. The most memorable part of the fight for me though was Tim’s dance moves in the ring before the start of the first round!!  Take a look at the video. Even referee, John Ryder had to applaud!!


Overall – an incredible evening, and a great deal of fun. John Murphy, please take the time to give yourself a massive pat on the back, and Frank Bartley, a very big thanks for your generosity.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *