Run to save Amelia-Mae restores faith in good of boxing

Andy Gatenby, left, plans to go the distance with 10 marathons in six days   Picture: Mick Young
Andy Gatenby, left, plans to go the distance with 10 marathons in six days Picture: Mick Young
Mo Farrah after missing out on a gold medal
				 Picture: Adam Davy

VERITY LUSH: Leave me to browse the make-up counter in peace

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Events outside of the ring this month have vividly displayed the beauty and despair of boxing.

A week or so ago in the beach resort of Pattaya, one of the most talented heavyweight boxers of all time took part in a Muay Thai boxing contest.

Riddick Bowe, at the age of 45, stepped into the ring and was subjected to a vicious beating by a man 15 years his junior.

Grossly overweight and clearly unfit, Bowe was continuously felled by blows to his shins and barely landed a punch before the referee eventually stepped in.

Despite earning millions in his career, the multi-world champion is now broke and took the £100,000 purse on offer to suffer the ordeal.

Most worryingly of all, Bowe says he plans to do it all again.

Witnessing the contest is a mixture of saddening and distressing viewing.

But then you hear what Portsmouth boxer Andy Gatenby is about to do and that despair makes way for awe-inspiring wonder.

The super-bantamweight will this Friday begin a gruelling challenge that most of us could not even begin to comprehend.

Gatenby, along with his trainer at Bognor’s VK Gym, John Murray, and five friends, will run 10 marathons back to back over the course of six days.

Yes, you did read that right. Ten marathons. Six days.

The inspiration for this mind-blowing challenge takes the form of a special little two-year-old girl called Amelia-Mae Davies.

Amelia-Mae is fighting for her life after being diagnosed with a very aggressive form of childhood cancer, neuroblastoma.

The brave battler, who is the niece of Gatenby’s trainer, has been given six months to live after being told the treatment she is being given on these shores is no longer effective.

There is, however, an alternative on offer in America, which offers a 40-per-cent success rate – at the cost of £250,000.

With the NHS not paying for the treatment, the campaign began last month to come up with the cash through fund-raising. The aim for the run was to hit a target of £5,000. With two days to go before it begins, that figure has broken £17,500.

Incredibly, it forms part of a nationwide total that has now broken the £100,000 barrier in four weeks. That £250,000 total doesn’t seem quite so distant anymore.

The finish line at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool does seem a fair way off for Gatenby and his team of heroes comprised of Murray, Paul Ormston, Davey McElwee, Miles Fallon, Lizzy Castleton and Hugh McNulty, though.

The preparations Gatenby has undertaken for the run are, quite simply, mind-blowing.

As well as working 12 hours day for his mechanical and electrical company who are backing him, the 2-0 professional has continued to go about his usual boxing training.

Given few sports can match the noble art for its intensity, that’s quite something. But how about throwing in 12-mile runs each day on top of that?

It’s something that is testing Gatenby’s resolve to the very limit. But then he thinks about Amelia Mae.

‘It puts everything into perspective,’ admitted the 26-year-old.

‘I’m working 12 hour days, doing the boxing training and then doing a 12-mile run.

‘My body is hurting and I’m feeling ratty, but then I realise what Amelia-Mae is going through is a million times worse.

‘That pushes me to go on and inspires me. It’s going to be brutal but I’m going to run until I drop.’

The fact Gatenby is chasing his dream of success in the ring has taken a back seat in the face of running to save Amelia-Mae.

He is due to box next month at the home of British boxing, York Hall in Bethnal Green – a special moment for any boxer. Even that special occasion is on the backburner, however.

‘If I’m not too battered, I’ll box.’ said Gatenby.

‘But this is what I’m committed to and my priority.

‘I want to go the full distance. I can have fights whenever I want in my career. This is close and important to me.

‘Amelia-Mae has got her back to the ropes and has a real, hard fight – and that puts everything into perspective.’

It does, Andy, and what you and your team are doing restores our faith in not only the good of boxing – but the good of people.

To sponsor Gatenby and his team, visit justgiving.com/teams/runningtosaveameliamae

To see the story of their run and Amelia-Mae Davies, view and share John Murray’s Facebook video at http://on.fb.me/10i2Jpq