A TEENAGER has told how his national boxing dream has been shattered – over a row about the colour of his gum shield.
Ashley Devenport, 13, was disqualified from the final of the ABA Schoolboy Championships moments before the biggest fight of his life.
The referee insisted he was wearing a red gum shield that broke competition rules – even though the shield is orange.
Ashley, a member of Ted Harris Boxing Academy, said: ‘I was devastated. It just felt like all my hard work had gone in the bin.’
Referee Wayne Heywood said the gum shield was red, which is outlawed in case it obscures the sight of any blood.
The Drayton teenager’s team insists it is orange, and had been used throughout his march to the national final in Mansfield on Saturday.
The gum shield had also been passed twice shortly before the final – by a doctor and at the weigh-in.
But the referee disqualified the shocked boxer and the bout did not go ahead. He even refused efforts to allow Devenport to use a replacement gum shield for the meeting with reigning champion Mark Jeffers.
Ashley said: ‘I was excited. I just wanted to get in the ring. It meant a lot. Boxing has been a part of my life for quite a while.
‘To get to the finals and achieve something big like this would have been brilliant. It was a dream to do it.’
Devenport’s furious coach Ted Harris, 71, who has been involved in boxing for 36 years, said: ‘I’ve been in boxing a long time and never seen anything of this nature. He has been left heartbroken because of an officious referee.
‘Anyone who looks at the gum shield can see it’s orange. Not just orange but luminous orange.
‘Not only that, but it had been passed as okay to be used and Ashley has been wearing it for a couple of seasons.
‘We even offered to change the gum shield, but he said it was too late and he’d already been disqualified. It was ridiculous.
‘Ashley has put in a year’s work and his family have gone to all the expense of travelling the country with him.
‘This was a wonderful chance for him, and he may never get another opportunity like this one. It’s been taken from him.’
ABA board member Dave Cockell, who was in charge of the event, said: ‘The referee called me as I walked past the ring and said “this guy has a red gum shield”. I said “you know red is not allowed” and walked on. I am kicking myself for walking on.
‘As I walked back he had thrown him out. I would have said to get him out of the ring, get it sorted, and box four or five fights down the line. I am on the club’s side, not against them.’
Mr Heywood, who runs Ashton Albion Amateur Boxing Club, made no comment when contacted by The News.