NEVILLE Brown says he’s getting back in the ring with a prove a point to Burton fight fans.
His exhibition match with Steve Collins on Sunday, July 6 is at the Meadowside Leisure Centre – where Brown had his last professional fight 14 years ago.
He bowed out of boxing after a loss to Sam Soliman for the vacant Commonwealth middleweight title in June, 2000.
Soliman earlier this year took the IBF middleweight title from Felix Sturm to become a world champion at the age of 40.
But his performance against the Aussie still haunts Brown – and he says the memory of that fight helped convince him to come out of retirement.
He said: “The last time I boxed in Burton I was just a shadow of myself.
“I was dead at the weight. I just couldn’t move.
“I only took the fight at a few days’ notice and still gave him a run for his money when I was only 60 per cent and Soliman was good.
“I was tired from losing all that weight.
“When I was in shape, the phone never seemed to ring and I didn’t want to be treated like a journeyman and take fights at short notice.
“So I put a towel over my head that night, walked out of the ring and straight out of boxing.
“Now I’m going back to the same place and I want to show Burton people what I can do.
“I only boxed here five or six times in my amateur and professional careers and there are a lot of people in Burton who’ve never seen me box.”
The record books show Brown is the town’s best most successful boxer.
As an amateur, he won ABA titles in 1987 and 1989 and was a bronze medallist at the European championship.
In the professional ring, Brown won a Lonsdale belt outright and also challenged for Commonwealth, European and world honours.
He describes his challenge for Collins’ WBO super-middleweight title in March, 1996 as “the highlight” of his ring career.
Brown said: “I had just moved into my new house when I got the call about the fight.
“I was only a blown-up middleweight and four weeks’ notice wasn’t really what I wanted.
“But I just thought: ‘Wow ! This is it !
“I remember a friend of mine ringing me up and saying: ‘You’re going to box Steve Collins? You’re going to be get whupped!’
“But I had boxed at world class as an amateur and thought: ‘I should be here.’
“I threw everything into training for four weeks. I didn’t get as much sparring as I would have liked, but I gave it everything.”
Brown was stopped in 11 rounds at the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet and remembered: “I knew I had six good rounds in me – and I really went for it.
“I could have boxed more, but he dragged me into a tussle. After six rounds, I didn’t have much left.
“Against anyone else, I might have gone the 12-round distance, but Steve was a tough, seasoned fighter and a masterful tactician.
“He had to be to box people like McCallum, Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn.
“It was a good ding dong. I gave him a run for his money.
“It was a great fight for me.
“The crowd loved it, I didn’t get hurt and Steve tells me I was one of his toughest opponents.
“There you go – that’s my claim to fame.
“Steve was a household name and people know me because I boxed him. I beat good fighters, but without that fight, a lot of people wouldn’t know me.
“Fighting Steve was a brilliant experience and the highlight of my career.”
Also on the bill at Meadowside Leisure Centre are local favourites including Ben Gower and Olly O’Toole.
Tickets are available with a 10 per cent discount from www.topdog-sports.com.