Newmarket sensation Pat McAleese has paid tribute to his fans while revealing his last fight has allowed him to put some demons to rest.
The 28-year-old brought the curtain down on his career in the ring with a thrilling contest — eventually declared a draw — with former WBU British and Commonwealth light heavyweight champion Tony Oakey in front of more than 400 punters at a sold-out arena at Newmarket Leisure Centre on Saturday night.
And having trained the home boxers on his first White Collar Fight Night of the year, as well as promoting and losing 10kg in a training camp to headline it, he said it lived up to all his expectations.
He said: “I loved it, apart from getting punched in the face!
“But it is a credit to my fanbase over the years that they have always supported me, whatever I have done.
“It was amazing; the lighting, the rigging the shows that were on.
“My opponent was great; what a name to have.”
McAleese, whose last super welterweight professional fight had ended in defeat back in July 2011, leaving him with a record of 12 wins (two knock-out), one draw and two losses from his 15 fights, had previously only sparred with Portsmouth-based Oakey, who had not fought in five years himself.
“I went out a bit too fast. He is used to 12 rounds and I am not used to that,” said McAleese, who was having to deal with a bloody face after the end of the first round, but went on to deal out some big blows of his own, including a frenzied finale to a chorus of ‘Pat! Pat Pat!’ In the concluding sixth round.
But was he happy to go out on a drawn result?
“Listen, I just boxed the former Southern Area, former British, former Commonwealth WBU World champion prize fighter in my last fight and that is a privilege win, lose or draw,” he said.
“It was definitely value for money.
“I was knackered, but what a fight!”
He added: “Boxing is a difficult sport but I really think I can now lay the feelings I have for boxing and animosity I had of wanting to fight again to rest now; it is done.
“I needed one more buzz and I definitely got that tonight.”
His involvement at the end meant the Newmarket head coach will have to review most of the bouts involving Newmarket Perfect U Fight Club members on video, but he was delighted to learn six out of eight returned home wins for a vocal crowd.
“The boys did me proud and Newmarket always does me proud — they always listen,” he said.
The highlight of the undercard saw Newmarket’s South African-born Richard Strike use nimble footwork and super smart counter punches to claim the vacant Southern Area Welterweight Title with a majority verdict over Lowestoft Boxing Academy’s Mathew Martin.
“It’s the happiest day of my life,” the 27-year-old said. “He was a tough opponent and I knew I had to go all out in the last round.
“I have wanted this for a long time, having fought for it six or seven months before and losing it by a couple of points.”
The night had started with a bang with fellow Newmarket Perfect U fighter Shaun Barnfather showing just why McAleese calls him the ‘pocket rocket’ with the referee giving a standing eight count to Lowestoft’s bloodied-nosed Sky Maker before awarding Barnfather a unanimous decision.
The home club did not have it all their own way though, with Jake Butcher losing his middleweight contest to St Ives’ Will Hyde on a majority decision and Rob Luckings unable to impress in the heavyweight division against Lowestoft’s Daniel Shreeve.
But Grace Jackson used her superior reach to dominate against Lowestoft’s Gemma Thomas, while there were also wins for popular heavyweight Curtis Miller and super middleweight Laurynas Skalsgiris, while Portsmouth’s Troy Mathews took a split decision against St Ives’ Chris Pope.
Personal trainer McAleese says he still has plenty to keep him busy with developing the next generation of Newmarket talent, with his next show — with injured big hope Jay Howell to return among others — set for the same venue in September and another planned for Granary Barns in December.