Welsh strongman Dale Evans enters his British title challenge to Bradley Skeete next month galvanised by the opportunity to honour the late Mike Towell, writes Glynn Evans.
The Dundee braveheart tragically passed away shortly after conceding to Evans in a British title eliminator at Glasgow’s St Andrews Sporting Club in late September.
The three time Welsh junior titlist and British CYP champion has been rightly lauded for the dignity and compassion with which he has conducted himself through what is just about the gravest chapter that any fighting man can encounter.
‘There were some very dark days, of course, Mike will always be at the back of my mind for as long as I’m boxing,’ states the 25 year old from St Clears, Carmarthenshire who scored a brace of knockdowns en route to a fifth round stoppage win.
‘After it happened, I just locked myself away, eating rubbish, picturing a little boy without his daddy. I was numb. I was constantly questioning whether I wanted to continue boxing. It dawned that it could’ve been me (injured).
‘Initially, I couldn’t go near the gym for a good six weeks after but I decided it would only be right to carry on, not just for me but for Mike’s family. Besides, boxing was my only trade, the one thing I was half decent at, something I’d worked really hard at mastering since I was nine years old.
‘I didn’t want to be looking back with ‘What ifs…..’ 15 to 20 years down the line, seeing my peers fulfil their potential and whinging that it could’ve been me.’
Evans acknowledges that his re-entry to the sport following the tragedy was eased by the manner in which he was warmly embraced by the Towell family when he attended the fallen soldier’s funeral in October.
‘Mike’s mum Tracey gave me a big hug and the whole family urged me to stick with the boxing,’ says Dale.
‘Because I had nothing in the pipeline, I didn’t spar for a good while after returning to the gym. Very few boxers will ever experience what I went through and that was pretty difficult. But once the bell goes, your mind set changes. Your fight head is on and the focus is there.’
When he gently eased back into the fray with a four round rust-shedder against Stourbridge centurion Kevin McCauley at Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall in May, ‘Iron Mike’ and a St Andrews flag were emblazoned on his waistband in homage to Towell.
‘A few complemented me on that but it was the very least I could do,’ says the self-employed construction worker.
‘That was the tester. I badly needed that to see how I’d cope, to get that feeling of fight night again; giving and taking shots. I felt I coped with it well.’
But Dale knows that nothing would glorify Mike’s memory more than for him to upset Skeete and capture the British title that both he and Towell fought so hard for the right to contest last autumn.
‘It’s always been my boxing dream to win the British title and it was also Mike’s dream. Now hopefully we can do it together. I owe it to him,’ concludes Evans.
‘WHEN I win the title on 8th July, it’ll be very emotional. Nothing would make me happier than taking the (Lonsdale) Belt up to Dundee and showing it to Mike’s family and friends.’
Elsewhere on the card Light-Heavyweight monster Anthony Yarde challenges Richard Baranyi for the WBO European belt; Darryll Williams and Jahmaine Smyle rematch for the English Super-Middleweight belt after their Fight of the Year contender in April; Sam McNess gets his first pro title shot against Southern Area Super-Welterweight Champion Asinia Byfield; undefeated Heavyweight Hughie Fury makes his eagerly-awaited return and teenage Heavyweight sensation Daniel Dubois looks to move to 4-0.
Tickets for Skeete v Evans priced at £40, £50, £100, £150 and £250 are available from www.eventim.co.uk