JUST over 15 years ago, one of Yorkshire’s finest boxers experienced one of the greatest nights of his life.
On April 29, 2000, Scarborough’s Paul Ingle – who had just won the IBF world featherweight title following a pulsating battle against tough Mexican Manuel Medina in Hull – travelled to the bright lights of New York to take on home-town hero Junior Jones.
Fighting Jones in his own back yard at Madison Square Garden, Ingle had to overcome not only the tricky and hard-hitting opponent, but the mind games and mischievous tricks the American and his team threw at him in the week leading up to the fight.
Everything from moving the weigh-in to the morning of the fight to ringing Paul’s hotel room in the small hours to disrupt his build-up went on leading up to the fight.
That did not deter Ingle from putting on a career-best performance on the night at the world-famous Garden, acting as chief support to Lennox Lewis’s destructive second-round knockout win against Michael Grant on a bumper card that included household names such as Wladimir Klitschko and Arturo Gatti.
The Edgehill man was moments away from pulling out of the fight due to Jones’s mind games, but he was vindicated for deciding to lace up and get on with it as he won the fight in great style.
Jones had Ingle down in the ninth, but showing true Yorkshire grit, Ingle clambered up off the canvas and landed two knockdowns in the 11th round before referee Steve Smoger intervened and ended the contest. Sadly, it would be Ingle’s final moment of glory in the boxing ring.
He had fought some incredible battles in the ring during his rollercoaster boxing career, but the biggest fight of his life came after his near-death experience on a November evening in Sheffield later that year.
Knocked out in the 11th round of what would unexpectedly be his last fight against Mbulelo Botile, Ingle’s life hung in the balance for the weeks following.
Suffering badly from dehydration and an 11-round battering from an opponent Ingle would have beaten with one hand tied behind his back had he been 100 per cent, a new battle started for the man known as ‘The Yorkshire Hunter’.
He required surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain and spent weeks in intensive care.
Once out of hospital, the featherweight would balloon in weight as a result of the steroids he had to take and the lack of exercise, which all led to Scarborough’s greatest sportsman becoming something of a recluse.
Ingle had hauled himself off the canvas many a time during his glittering career on the way to winning countless amateur titles, representing Great Britain at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and then lifting the British, Commonwealth, European and IBF and IBO world featherweight titles, but in enforced retirement he had to do it all over again.
In May, 2013, Paul’s good friend, Sonny Pollard – son of his former trainer Steve – decided enough was enough.
Pollard put Ingle on a strict diet and set the wheels in motion for an autobiography with boxing journalist Paul Zanon.
Almost two years on, Ingle has lost over seven stone and his autobiography ‘The Yorkshire Hunter’ is heading for the top of the boxing charts.
Ingle’s speech has improved beyond most people’s expectations, he has received his official ABA coaching licence and is appearing at the Scarborough Amateur Boxing Club gym more frequently to pass on his knowledge and experience.
“I have to thank Paul (Zanon), he’s done a cracking job with the book and he’s been there from the start, filling me with tears throughout the process,” revealed Ingle.
“The book is 10 years overdue, but it’s great that it’s finally out. Sonny Pollard has made all this happen and I have to thank him, too.”
Author Zanon has been delighted with the support for the book, stating his admiration for the loyalty and long-standing support for Ingle from his Scarborough fanbase.
The London-based boxing journalist said: “To be able to put Paul back in the spotlight is fantastic.
“Sonny got in touch with me in May 2013 and it’s been a long process.
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, just like the book really, there’s been a lot of tears. We’re coming for Mike Tyson’s (book), we’re going to take that No 1 spot.
“Scarborough people are probably the most loyal bunch I’ve encountered, it’s phenomenal.”
One of the highlights of the book is chapter 14, ‘through my mother’s eyes’, where Paul’s mum Carol takes the reader through the dark days following Ingle’s career-ending, and life-threatening injuries in 2000.
“Sadly, the next chapter in Paul’s life would come with more challenges than he’d ever faced in the ring,” she writes.
As with any rollercoaster, though, the incredible lows faced by Ingle since that fateful night in Sheffield in 2000 have been and gone and the Scarborough man was honoured last week with a special evening to celebrate the release of his book.
Sky Sports and the BBC were present on the night, with his former promoter, Kellie Maloney (formerly Frank Maloney), on hand to talk about the fighter’s career, having written the foreword for the book.
Also paying homage to Ingle was Sky Sports boxing promoter and former world cruiserweight champion Jonny Nelson.
A sell-out crowd were present at North Cliff Golf Club to honour Ingle and he came out to a rapturous reception and chants of “Ingle, Ingle. Ingle!”, synonomous with those glory nights in the 1990s that included fights against Prince Naseem Hamed, Colin McMillan, Medina and Jones and bouts all over the United Kingdom.
Scarborough will surely never witness a sportsman like Ingle again.
ABA champion Danny Price was unbeaten in nine fights before his professional career ground to a halt after the hasty exit from the sport by promoter Maloney, and young prospects Shaun Ireland and George Rhodes Jnr have just turned professional with Ingle’s achievements spurring them on.
Another waiting to emerge out of Ingle’s shadow is his nephew Harry, aged 11, who is a keen fighter for Scarborough ABC.
Ingle, who wears the famous camouflage shorts that his uncle used to sport, has a decent record as an amateur and there are high hopes for him at the club.
Things are looking up for ‘The Yorkshire Hunter’, and his incredible journey could be heading towards more prosperous times again.