Kieran Farrell heaped praise upon one-time opponent Anthony Crolla six years on from the pair’s English lightweight title bout, a brawl which caused Farrell’s early exit from the sport with life-threatening brain injuries.
Following Manchester-born Crolla’s ten-round unanimous decision win, Farrell collapsed in the ring and later suffered a fit in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
Fortunately, the injuries sustained by the then 22-year-old did not take his life. Instead, calling a premature halt to a promising boxing career.
Farrell, however, holds no ill-feeling towards his former advisory, and explained how the two are still in touch: “Any time I text Anth, which is pretty regularly, he’s great,” Farrell explained to World Boxing News.
“I recently set up a YouTube channel and asked Anth to give it a shout out on his Twitter page. An hour later he put up a video of his own asking everybody to go and follow me.
“You hear it a lot, but he is a gentleman, one of the nicest people around. He doesn’t have to do what he does for me, but he does. I can’t thank him enough, it’s an honour to be a friend of his.
“To see Anthony doing well is good obviously, I do believe I would have been world champion had I won that fight. But I’ll be glad when Anth goes and lifts another world title for the both of us.”
Upon waking up in Salford Royal Hospital the day after the Crolla fight, Farrell admits his first thought was to plot a comeback path, but fate intervened.
“In my head, when I woke up in hospital, I was planning, thinking about how to make weight in the weight class above.
“The injury still feels like yesterday in many ways. Even yesterday afternoon I was walking home and I thought ‘imagine if it hadn’t of happened like that.’
“I can’t get sad about it because if I do that I’ll just get depressed and that’s the last thing I want.’
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to box again but I’m still young and ambitious.”
And the now 28-year-old’s ambitions, fuelled by inner self-belief, has produced great success stories at his own People’s Gym in Heywood, Manchester
“I love still boxing, and that’s how this has all still come about.
“I went to the gym and we have about 20 kids who come along and love it. That gym never would have been there if I hadn’t had the injury.
“So, for the gym to be there and for it to give those kids focus and somewhere to go at night time and stuff like that is good.
“Gyms help change people’s lives and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.”
Farrell’s work with children in his gym and his dedication to the community of Manchester has earned him royal recognition in 2013 with a British Empire Medal from Her Majesty the Queen.
“It was unreal, I’ve managed to achieve so much.
“I sort of pinch myself when I send an email and I put Kieran Farrell BEM at the end of it. I’m happy and well proud with it all and couldn’t have done it without the gym.
“When you learn about the injury, Michael Watson had it. I think Spencer Oliver had it, Gerald McClellan, you realise how much a significant injury it is.
“Once you know that you start living with it a little better and understanding it more. When you read about it you realise there’s no f***ing coming back from it, it’s one of them.
It is hard to stomach. But you learn to live with it in a positive way.
Despite his relationship with Crolla, his fantastic gym and royal title, one could certainly forgive Farrell for feeling a little left behind by boxing’s mainstream. The selfless Farrell, though, disagrees.
“I could sit back and think “I’ve been left in the gutter” but that’s no way to live.
“You might have seen that quote from Sergio Martinez about having 1300 missed calls when he beat somebody. Then when got beat he had five missed calls and three of them were off his Mum!
“When you see and hear stuff like that then you sort of come to terms with that’s sort of how the world is a little bit.
“You do feel forgotten about. You’re not in the spotlight anymore like you was once upon a time.
“But with myself, because I’m still around the sport of boxing. I’ve never really felt like that. I have and I haven’t.
“You think about certain individuals and think “f***ing hell, you haven’t contacted me”. But you’ve got to understand that people have busy lives as well.
“Maybe sometimes they put it off for their own reasons.”
James Copley is a Staff Writer for World Boxing News. Follow James on Twitter @JamesCopley73