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Plasterer Steve Walker gets into boxing ring for cancer charity in tribute to terminally ill wife

Posted onPosted on 25th Jan

A Forest Town plasterer whose wife contracted terminal breast cancer raised money for charity by stepping into the ring for a boxing match ­— and enjoyed it so much he has done it twice since.

Steve Walker, 35, has raised £4,500 for charity by bravely getting in the ring, despite having never boxed before ­— and he’s now encouraging others to have a go.

Steve, a former semi-professional footballer, raised the money in honour of his “beautiful” wife of eight years, Gemma, also 35.

In 2016, doctors gave the couple the devastating news that Gemma had breast cancer, which has now spread to other areas of her body and is terminal.

But Steve said his wife has been so strong throughout chemotherapy he was inspired to raise money for her.

He had played football until he was 31, representing Forest Town FC, Clay Cross and FC05 Bilsthorpe, and decided to keep up his sporting interest by taking up boxing and signing up to Ultra White Collar Boxing to raise money for charity.

The organisation coaches beginners with eight weeks of free professional training before matching them in a bout against an opponent of a similar standard. Any money raised through sponsorship goes to Cancer Research UK.

Steve won his first bout in July 2017, at the John Fretwell Sporting Complex, Sookholme, and loved it so much he fought again at the centre through Ultra White Collar Boxing in November 2018, this time drawing his match,
Steve, who met Gemma while working at the same plastering firm, has also fought through his local gym, losing that bout.

He said he wished he had got into boxing sooner.

“My wife getting cancer pushed the buttons for me to do it, I was inspired by her strength and wanted to raise money for her,” said Steve.

“I had always liked the idea of getting into boxing — now I just wish I did it much sooner in life.

“Gemma was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and then got secondary cancer in her bones.

“Now doctors have found it on her lungs and possibly some specs in her stomach too.

“Sadly it’s terminal and she’s having chemotherapy. It’s been difficult, things like this change your life completely.

“Gemma has been so strong, it gave me the push I needed to jump in the ring.

“Getting into the ring for a few rounds is nothing compared with what my wife and other cancer sufferers go through.

“It’s been hard on our six-year-old son, Owen, too. We try to give him as much love as possible.

“When she was diagnosed I was shocked, it was really tough. It makes you look at life in a different perspective.

“We’re not sure how long Gemma has left but it’s just a case of keeping going ­— being a mum is keeping Gemma focused.

“We have holidays booked for later in the year. We’re going skiing in March and to Mexico later in the year. We’re just trying to balance life and make memories.”

Steve, of New Mill Lane, has raised nearly £4,500 through both of his Ultra White Collar Boxing fights.

He said it was completely different to playing football. A striker. Steve notched 15 to 20 goals a season, and enjoyed success as he won leagues and reached cup finals.

He said: “Boxing is completely different. When you have 10 others around you on a football pitch they can cover up your mistakes, but if you make a mistake in the ring you’ve shot it as you’re on your own.

“I was pretty nervous both times (I got into the ring with Ultra White Collar Boxing). It’s no easy feat.

“Strangely I was actually a bit more nervous for the second fight, but it’s not about winning or losing and both were great fun.

“My wife was there both times. She was very nervous but excited at the same time.

“When I first told her I was going to box for charity she was a little scared, but was proud of me too.

“My son wasn’t there but he kept asking about it. I think I made him proud.

“It’s incredible how generous people can be, so many people turned up for my fights, which was amazing.

“The eight weeks of training is tough but when you remember why you’re doing it you are spurred on.”

Steve chose rock band Motorhead’s ‘The Game’ as his walk-on song. He joked: “I picked it because I am ‘the game’.”

He was trained at Sor Chang Kow Muay Thai Camp in Mansfield by coach Lee Chester.

Kelly White, who organises Ultra White Collar Boxing events in Mansfield, said: “The next bouts are at the John Fretwell on 14th April.

“It’s a really popular venue. On the night it looks great inside and it’s always buzzing with a great atmosphere — it usually sells out.

“The most we’ve raised from an event in Mansfield is £9,000, which is amazing.

“We are hoping to match that or raise even more.”

Participants are trained at Sor Chang Kow Muay Thai Camp twice a week.

Ultra Events offer participants the chance to step out of their comfort zone and raise money for Cancer Research UK by taking part in boxing, ballroom dancing, mixed martial arts, darts or comedy.

All events are open to male and female participants over the age of 18.

The events include eight weeks of free training before taking part in a showcase event in front of friends, families and colleagues.

To find out more about how to take part in the April event, or to get tickets, and for details of future events at the John Fretwell Sporting Complex, go to www.ultrawhitecollarboxing.co.uk/locations/mansfield

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