Castleford professional boxer Nathan Owens won new fans for a brave performance in reaching the semi-finals of the prestigious cruiserweight Prizefighter competition – just three days after his mother died from cancer.
Owens, 24, saw his preparations for the biggest night of his boxing career interrupted by news that mum Lorraine was seriously ill, but decided to go ahead with the Sky televised competition and dedicated Saturday’s performance to his mother, who wanted her son to take part.
As the youngest and most inexperienced of the eight boxers taking part in the Prizefighter event, at the York Hall, Bethnal Green, Owens began the night as an outsider, but put his troubled build-up behind him as he beat former British champion Shane McPhilbin on points in a three-round quarter-final contest.
After putting McPhilbin on unsteady ground to win the first round clearly, Owens was caught in the second and went down, but the referee did not rule it a knock down and the Cas man edged a scrappy third round against an opponent mostly looking to spoil to take the bout on a decision.
In his semi-final Owens faced bookies favourite Wadi Camacho and despite looking much the lighter he gave a gutsy display. Once again he was the better man in the opening round, catching Camacho with a beautiful right and putting him under big pressure.
But Camacho’s strength brought him back into the contest and in the final round he put Owens down onto one knee with a perfect right hook that experts said would have put anyone down.
Owens battled on to the end of the round with a courageous performance, but lost on a points decision and could console himself with having been involved in the best fight of the night.
Camacho went on to win the tournament with a knock out of Hari Miles in the final.
Trainer/manager Keith Walker was proud of Owens.
He said: “We entered this tournament for Nathan to gain experience and to display his skills on the big stage.
“I believe the paying public only got to see 40 per cent of his skills under these unfortunate circumstances, but they experienced far more, they witnessed a man with courage, bravery and enormous character. He is an inspiration to everyone.
“The decision to take part was made between everyone involved, especially Nathan’s mam. She was so proud of him and wanted him to take this opportunity with both hands if his trainer agreed.”
Former world champion Jim Watt said: “He’s mighty brave with enormous character and can leave the tournament with his head held high.”
Johnny Nelson, another former world champion at ringside, added; “How he’s held it together I do not know. I couldn’t have done it.”
Owens said: “I’m heart broken and deeply saddened by the loss of my loving mam. I did this for you. Bless you. Thank you to my trainer/manager Keith Walker for his support to get me through these tough times in the gym and to my family, friends and sponsors.”
Sponsors were Brebour Ltd, Tartan Coffee Lounge and Big John’s Gym.