Warrior will stir echoes of greatest sporting nights

Tony Oakey, right, with Barry Hearn after winning the Prizefighter trophy in 2009
Tony Oakey, right, with Barry Hearn after winning the Prizefighter trophy in 2009
Dave Birmingham. Picture: Neil Marshall

Birmingham wins Irish friends as he eyes future title

Have your say

At an Essex hotel on Saturday night a little bit of Portsmouth boxing magic will be awoken.

The Prince Regent in Chigwell will be a world away from the biggest and most exciting nights the noble art has produced involving one of our own.

It won’t be another bill-topping fight of the year contender at the home of British boxing, York Hall, in the heart of London’s East End.

It won’t be a frenzied Mountbatten Centre in full party mode or the Point in Dublin in front of 10,000 rabid Irishman.

But it will stir echoes of those never-to-be-forgotten evenings as the Leigh Park Warrior laces his gloves one more time.

Ordinarily, the prospect of a boxer stepping into the ring again four years after retirement would raise concern.

It was somewhere I first wrote Tony Oakey should never tread again after brave defeat to world champion-in-waiting Nathan Cleverly in 2008, in a fight taken at short notice.

The signs of deterioration were evident then and the square circle is no place for a man taking punches he would have once avoided, especially when virtually every contest was a war.

He didn’t listen, however, and proved us all wrong by going on to pick up one of his most satisfying victories in the Prizefighter tournament, a few months later.

That put another title on a stellar CV which already included ABA, Southern Area, English, Commonwealth, British and WBU crowns.

Now, almost 13 years after the 38-year-old picked up his first professional belt beating Butch Lesley at Wembley, he returns.

A fighter’s heart, unwillingness to accept the weathering sands of time or need to pay bills and feed mouths are usually the reasons boxers continue, when they should’ve long since walked away from this most wearing and unforgiving of sports.

A young child by the name of Indee Rose Dopson will be Oakey’s inspiration, however.

Indee today has a trust set in her name after she tragically died in 2009, five months after being diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of three.

The charity provides support for children enduring a similar plight to the one she faced.

When Oakey’s old trainer, Johnny Eames, began plotting an exhibition event to raise funds for the trust, he had his headliner in mind.

Some Facebook baiting didn’t go unnoticed until his old charge took the bait hook, line and sinker.

Celtic warrior Steve Collins and Lesley were rumoured foes but it is ex-sparring partner and fellow former British and WBU champ, Wayne Elcock who will stand in front of Oakey this weekend.

The banter has been flying back and forth between the pals in recent weeks, with the joke Elcock’s slick movement makes him Apollo Creed to Oakey’s incessant Rocky.

Ricky Hatton has got involved, too, sending a video message warning to the former light-heavyweight after Elcock joined the Hitman for some impressive sparring.

Oakey hasn’t exactly let himself slide in retirement, though.

He doesn’t sit a million miles from his fighting weight today, and has been doing plenty of work with local trainer Michael Ballingall’s stable of pros of late.

Another worthy and heart-rending cause for Denmead youngster Jack Robinson, who has also been diagnosed with a brain tumour, saw Oakey spar over 50 rounds and raise £5,000 earlier this month.

There will be a competitive edge to the exhibition this weekend as the pair meet over six rounds. That spirit doesn’t die in these spartans.

Being ringside to witness it will undoubtedly take me back to special moments, which stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest sporting occasions ever delivered in these parts.