Derry Mathews to face John May in boxing ring
Scouse actor and comedian John May will swap the stage for the ring when he takes on former boxing champion Derry Mathews in Liverpool this weekend. Tony McDonough reports
Ex-pro fight champion Derry Mathews will host an inclusive boxing showcase and return to the ring at Liverpool’s Grand Central this weekend.
Scouse actor and comedian John May will swap the stage for the ring when he takes on the former world featherweight champ, after throwing down the gauntlet on Facebook.
John became a viral sensation during lockdown when he began posting comedy character sketches, including the now infamous ‘Turkey Teeth’. In a post on social media last month, he said: “I’ll take you Derry Mathews and your little mate Jazza (Dickens) too. I’ll take you all.”
The May-Mathews match is top of the bill in a fourteen-bout showcase next Saturday, November 20. Derry, who retired from the sport in 2017, has since coached amateur and professional boxers out of the Derry Mathews Academy CIC based in the city centre.
Having spent 15 years boxing professionally, there are few better placed to help youngsters rising through the ranks in the industry. But he says his real passion is making boxing an accessible sport for everyone.
Following his retirement, Derry began running dedicated weekly sessions for people with a range of physical and learning disabilities – including cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD, mental health issues and spina bifida.
And last year, Derry Mathews Academy CIC became a delivery partner in a fully inclusive programme facilitated by Manchester-based charity Maverick Stars Trust, which aims to provide specialist support for recovering veterans, disadvantaged young people, individuals with mental health issues and people with disabilities.
Physical activity has proven to have a positive influence on mental wellbeing, increasing motivation and relaxing mood and stress levels.
And increasingly, boxing clubs are becoming excellent community hubs within deprived areas. Studies show that people of lower socioeconomic status have a higher likelihood of developing and experiencing mental health problems.
Derry’s Academy CIC run the charity’s BoxAbility programme, which has been developed for people with mixed disabilities and now has more than 150 people signed up.
Individuals are put on a boxing awards course and attend regular skills sessions with coaches at the gym before receiving a qualification and medal at the end. It’s a progressive pathway in learning boxing.
Two of the veterans who enrolled on the course last year are now carded, which means that, pending a full medical, they can officially fight for the club. The show on November 20 aims to raise money for Derry’s Academy CIC so that is can extend and develop its community and inclusive programmes.
Derry said: “I’ve been beyond amazed to see the commitment from individuals we’ve worked with through the CIC and through the BoxAbility programme.
“They’ve been committed, they’ve been consistent and for some of them, their experience here has been truly transformational. And I’m talking real transformation here, not just physically but mentally too.
“We’ve had people through the door not, some of them at rock bottom, literally not knowing what their next step was.
“And most if not all of them have in fact made giant leaps in just a matter of months. It’s just been incredible to watch and it’s actually unearthed some of the most genuinely, naturally talented boxers I’ve ever worked with.
“This event is not just a celebration of inclusivity, it’s much more than that. It’s a celebration of hard graft, dedication and tenacity. More than anything, though, it is a celebration of sheer talent.
“We’ve got some of the city’s most promising boxers, two of the city’s most popular singers and two of the city’s up and coming DJs performing sets at the after party, anyone looking for an evening to remember get yourselves down there.”
The show takes place on Saturday, November 20, at Grand Central Hall. Liverpool singers Conleth McGeary and Owen Brown will also be performing, before DJs Vicki Scott and John Edgy. Liverpool-based Boom Productions, who have delivered concerts and festivals across Europe, will be helping to manage the event.
Tickets are £15 and can be purchased online www.derrysfitclub.co.