When Anthony Nelson laced some boxing gloves up in a friend’s back garden he had no idea the wild ride he was about to embark on.
From clowning about in a garden, the South Shields man discovered a love of fighting that drove him to a Local amateur gym at Horsley Hill aged 18.
A latecomer to the sport, few would have predicted that Nelson, after just 28 amateur fights would turn professional, win English and Commonwealth titles and share a Fight of the Year contest.
But they’re just some of the fantastic memories Nelson can look back on with pride as he reflects on his prizefighting career upon his retirement.
“I think this is the right time to walk away from it,” the 32-year-old, who departs the sport with a 12-2 record, said.
“I turned pro just to give it a go really. I love the sport and love fighting so I just thought ‘why not?’
“I turned pro with no expectations so to achieve what I have, I can hold my head high.
“I won the English and Commonwealth titles, I had a Fight of the Year with Jamie Conlan and I topped the bill at my Local arena with Anthony Joshua on the card. I don’t think many can say that, can they?”
Nelson was last out losing to Charlie Edwards this June. It’s one frustration for Nelson as he walks away, because he knows that because of inactivity he wasn’t at his best that night.
With the exception of a quick tune-up fight two months prior, Nelson had been not just out of the ring, but completely out of the gym for two years ahead of that fight.
He reflected: “Part of me does wonder what could have been. Obviously I’m so proud of what I did achieve, but I also do wonder what could have been?
“The inactivity was because I couldn’t get a sponsor and couldn’t train full-time because I needed to work to support my family.
“After that Conlan fight I was ready to kick on. I proved in that fight I was at that level and I was ready to kick on then. Sadly, my circumstances meant that just never happened.”
Ahead of his return against Edwards, Nelson opened up about his depression during his two years away. He reached a dark place personally as he craved being back under the bright lights.
But he assures that he’s in a good place now, as he walks away from the sport on his own terms.
“I really struggled with depression after the Conlan fight,” he said.
“The thing then was that I wanted to fight. I loved fighting and knew I could be achieving something if I was fighting. Instead, I had to provide for my family and just couldn’t dedicate the time that I needed to if I was going to box at that level and do myself justice. I wasn’t fighting and that wasn’t because of me.
“The difference now is that I’m walking away on my terms. I know this is the right time for me to walk away. I still love the sport and will still go to the gym and tick over and help the lads in their training when I can, but I just don’t need the struggle anymore. Instead, I have happy memories to look back on and can walk away with pride.”
Prominent throughout Nelson’s fight career was his trainer Mal Gates.
But to merely label Gates, who runs the Harton and Westoe gym, just the coach would severely downplay the close bond that trainer-fighter shared.
Paying tribute to Nelson, Gates said: “Anthony is my best mate; he’s like part of my family now.
“I’m so proud of everything we achieved together and everything he did in his career.
“As well as a great boxer, he is such a great person too. Outside the ring he is an absolute gentleman and there isn’t anybody who knows him who could have a bad word to say about him.
“He’s an absolute credit to himself and it’s been an absolute pleasure to train him.”
The pair shared many special nights in the sport together, but both allude to one night in particular as their highlight.
October 12, 2014 in the pair’s hometown of South Shields, Nelson beat Terry Broadbent at Temple Park in an absolute barnstormer every bit as good, if not better, than his Fight of the Year winner against Conlan. Nelson captured the English super flyweight title that night.
“Everything about that fight was great,” Nelson remembered. “Headlining a big show in my hometown, walking to the ring where the atmosphere was absolutely bouncing, having a great battle with Terry and then walking away with the English title. That had everything.”
Gates added: “It was such a special occasion and Anthony was brilliant that night. It was a great fight and the crowd made an unbelievable noise. Personally it was a proud moment for me too, because my mam was ringside for that fight and a lot of our family and friends were there.”
Steve Wraith was promoter of that event and of many other Nelson fights too.
He added: “Mal Gates gave me the opportunity to work with Nella in the early stage of my pro boxing career. We worked as a team to promote ‘Babyface’ and to get him the fights he wanted.
“The English title fight against Terry Broadbent is a night none of us will ever forget because of the atmosphere and of course Nella winning the belt.
“The Commonwealth title opportunity came along after my first meetings with Eddie Hearn about coming up North. He brought Joshua here and the rest is history. Nella boxed well that night and to stand alongside Mal and Nella in the ring that night meant a lot to me.
“I think he has made the correct decision. He has given his all to the sport. I just hope he can give a little back to the youngsters and that he is not a stranger at ringside because he will always be welcome.”
Nelson leaves the sport as an active fighter but he does plan to stay involved.
His ten-year-old son, Anthony Jnr, has just taken up the sport and has started attending the same amateur gym his father did – Horsley Hill ABC.
As such, head coach there Stevie Winter has asked the retiring South Shields hero to teach a few classes to youngsters.
“I’m going to do it. I like the idea of it.
“I’ve always been someone who enjoys helping kids and watching them develop their skills. If I can give a bit back and teach them some of the things I learned to help them then that is something that really excites me.
“Anthony is really enjoying it and I really hope he does stick at it. Like many kids his age he tends to like staying in on his computer games, but I hope he sticks at it and still loves it as much once he gets hit in the face!
“Either way I’m really grateful to Stevie for the opportunity to train the kids and I’m really looking forward to that.”
So while it’s goodbye to Anthony Nelson the boxer, thankfully it’s not goodbye to Anthony Nelson altogether.
He deserves to be remembered as a great of the sport in this region. A great North East prizefighter who was very rarely in a boring fight. A true warrior with the biggest heart imaginable.
All that’s left is to congratulate Anthony on a stellar career, and wish him the best of luck going forward.
Source : Chroniclelive