IT TAKES a lot of guts to step through the ropes and brace for a beating.
They call boxing the sweet science – and that it is – but there’s no hiding from the fact, like a whistling uppercut, that like all collision sports, it’s gonna hurt.
Fighters accept that, train for it – and none has been more courageous than Nambucca Heads lad Mitchel Stapleton.
He enters the ring as the Dynamite Kid – but after a hugely successful amateur career, he will finally step onto the canvas in his pro debut.
Finally, because this dance was supposed to happen a year back – only for a dodgy contract where the then 18-year-old was asked to sell $2500 in tickets to secure the fight. His dad, Ian ‘Sparra’ Stapleton, baulked.
And then health issues came out of nowhere like a blistering right from a southpaw. Mitch was struck down by a perforated bowel, then a bout of salmonella (food poisoning).
How that looked was a kid in and out of hospital – white gown, tubes and a boy wasting away. He lost the kilos from an already shredded frame, and the haters swooped to do what they do.
But he never lost faith. In his darkest moments, the former Nambucca Heads High School product found mental strength as his body failed.
And so on Saturday night at the Bowlo will come his long awaited debut as a professional – the opportunity to defy what a few said was beyond.
“I got told by a doctor that I wasn’t going to box again,” Mitchell, now 19, told the Guardian.
“But I never gave in. I’ve been training 10 weeks hard, and can’t wait to prove to lot of people that I’m back.”
Dad Sparra is like all fathers, proud – almost gobsmacked by his boy’s determination.
“He’s been doing three sessions a day, 12k runs most days, and he’s probably mentally tougher because of all that he’s been through in and out of hospital,” Sparra said.
On Saturday night at the Nambucca Heads Bowling Club, Mitchel will be among a number of locals in a pro-am boxing night set to fire up from 6.30.
His opponent will be Chaiyan Sakkoed, who has 10 fights as a pro to his name, but just one win, in a welterweight contest.
“He’s out of Brisbane and has been active. He’s got a big overhand right,” Sparra said of his son’s opponent.
The other two pro bouts on the night also showcase locals.
Watch Stapleton and Whitelaw spar
The surgeon of technique, Mitchell Whitelaw, will headline the card and faces Korean Duk No Yoon, from the Deception Bay stable.
Mitchell is starting out as a pro – impressively – and has a two-win, one-draw record but will need to be wary against Yoon whose only outing was a first round KO.
“He’s (Yoon) a big banger,” Sparra said, “and Mitchell will be stepping up in weight (to 83kg) for this one.”
“My preparation has been great. Playing football with the Roosters has helped with my fitness,” Mitchell told the Guardian.
The third pro fight on a potential 14-card evening will see Dorrigo’s Danny Beverly (two wins, five losses, one draw) square off with Thai Wanchaloem Chanajan.
“Danny will probably have the hardest fight of the lot,” Sparra said.
Of the amateurs, locals:
Keely Stapleton from Nambucca will return to the ring after a two-year absence and giving birth to her first against Bek Washington from Kingscliffe.
Peter Conroy – a 14-year-old from Bellingen who trains at Nambucca – will verse fellow rugby league mate, Grady Spokes from Sawtell.
Dale Strachan will get it on with Kingscliff’s Jack Farrell.
Jay Melrose – fresh from a third round KO win at the Gold Coast – will face Sam McKechnie from Grafton.
Macksville High student Jesse Simpson will touch gloves and more with Clancy Webber from Coffs Harbour.
While Bellingen’s Chris Ward – also Sparra trained – square up with Michael Collett from Kingscliff in a Masters fight.