Leigh Park man living his bare-knuckle dream
It's more any which way you want than Every Which Way But Loose.
That is the message Mickey Parker is determined to get across as he makes his way in the world of bare-knuckle boxing.
The 35-year-old has embarked on a journey of discovery following a chequered youth in Leigh Park.
His eyes have been opened and his life has turned around. Now he wants to make the most of every opportunity he is given.
That mantra saw him link up with Jim Freeman, Joe Brown and their Bare Knuckle Boxing (BKB) organisation in July after impressing on the white-collar scene.
Two months later Parker made a winning debut at a packed Echo Arena in Liverpool as the sport’s outdated stereotypes were firmly cast aside.
Hardly the image made famous by Clint Eastwood in his role as Californian brawler Philo Beddoe in the aforementioned 70s film.
Parker, who is trained by former professional and ABA champion Billy Bessey, said: ‘You say bare knuckles and most people picture fights in a barn, surrounded by hay bales.
‘But when you mention where you are fighting, like the Echo Arena, the O2, Wembley, they want to know more. People are very inquisitive.
‘A lot of people will class bare-knuckle boxing as guys who hate each other and have a score to settle.
‘It is nothing like that. People fight, they shake hands and then have a drink with each other after. It is like a big family backstage.
‘At Liverpool, my eyes were opened to the camaraderie of it. There were people who were going to fight in two hours’ time, laughing and joking together.
‘I was quite quiet up there. It was my first fight and I was just taking it all in. But it was absolutely unreal.
‘People take a bit of convincing. You have to explain it to them. But when you do and they can see the precautions taken, they begin to understand.
‘There are more paramedics there than any of the pro boxing shows I’ve seen and the medical beforehand is very strict.
‘It is so impressive. I have been to white-collar shows and someone has basically just come up to me and said sign here, which is really annoying.
‘They are meant to be looking after you. It is really sad. But here you have a really rigorous medical and I was so impressed by that.
‘Joe and Jim are very serious. This is their vision and they believe in it. They are aiming to be in Vegas in three years.
‘It sounds crazy but every time they say something like that they step up to the plate. They have done nothing so far to make me disbelieve them.’
Heavyweight Parker beat Daniel Podmore, of Cradley Heath, by unanimous decision in Liverpool in September.
He put his rival down with an uppercut in the second round, with the subsequent eight-count paving the way for a debut victory.
The former Staunton Park Community School pupil, who also dedicates time to raising awareness of diabetes, admitted he is living a dream.
While the role reversal with a close friend and one of Leigh Park’s most famous sons, WBU, British and Commonwealth boxing champion Tony Oakey, is not lost on him.
Parker said: ‘I’m in a bit of a dreamworld. It has all come around very quickly.
‘Jim invited me and the wife to watch a BKB show in July and I made my debut in September. I am pinching myself but I am really relishing the opportunity.
‘I have grown up supporting my good friend Tony Oakey. He has obviously had a lot of really good nights in the ring and I have been part of that. I want my own little army now.
‘Those nights at the York Hall and the like were fantastic. We followed Tony all over and everyone used to love it.
‘Now he is watching me. He was at Liverpool and he’s coming up to the O2 in January. It’s a funny old world!’
Parker, who works for Portsmouth Demolition & Salvage, has certainly come a long way since spending his formative years in and out of trouble on the Havant council estate.
And he his determined to help prevent the next generation making the same mistakes, whether that is through sport or charity work.
Parker added: ‘Growing up in Leigh Park, everyone does their rights and does their wrongs. Things could have gone better for me but it has turned good now.
‘I was in and out of trouble but I got to about 23 and thought what am I doing? I’m 35 now and I just want to take every opportunity in life.
‘I love how the work I do now, whether it is the bare-knuckle boxing or the charity stuff, makes people feel. I love how people respond to it.
‘People come up to me wanting to chat about what I’m doing and asking me what’s next. And often these are people I don’t even know.
‘To be in that frame of mind and for people to think of you in that way is really positive. And it makes positive things happen.
‘It is so nice how people become over things like that. My advice to the youngsters now is to stick to the training, it will be the best thing you’ve ever done.
‘Life has changed so much for me. I was never horrible to anyone here but I get people come up to me and say you’re such a nice person now. It’s nice to be nice!
‘I’m looking forward to Christmas but I won’t be drinking much. I’m in such a good place I don’t want to miss training the next day.
‘And that is the message I’m trying to get across to the young people. If you’re training hard and your head’s in a good place, you don’t want to go out drinking all the time.
‘There is so much more to life. With Gary (Burch) and the charity work, we are always saying life is there to live.
‘You don’t want to work Monday to Friday, get paid, do all your money by Sunday and then have to wait for the next week to come around. It’s like groundhog day!
‘There is so much out there to see and do, go and do it. I am living proof it can happen. I am going to the O2 to fight in front of thousands of people!’
Click here to read Mickey Parker’s thoughts on the training, his ambitions, charity work, family support and his following.