Two sports have joined together as they aim to put South Shields “on the map”.
A partnership was recently announced between boxer Anthony Nelson, from the town, and South Shields FC.
The Northern League club is sponsoring the Commonwealth, English and Northern Area champion in the lead-up to his next bout.
It is support the super-flyweight has described as potentially career-saving, and he was at the club’s Mariners Park on Saturday as guest of honour.
The fighter, nicknamed ‘Babyface’, saw Shields beat Birtley Town 2-0 to move a step closer to promotion to Northern League Division One.
He was introduced to the crowd of more than 900 before the match, and then watched the game from the O’Brien Lounge at the ground alongside Mal Gates, who trains him at the Harton and Westoe Miners’ Welfare Gym.
The club threw me a massive lifeline, and picked me back upAnthony Nelson
Anthony, who has won all 11 of his professional contests so far, says the support of the Mariners has been invaluable.
He said: “If it wasn’t for the club over Christmas, I might have walked away from boxing altogether.
“I’ve got a family, three kids and a mortgage to pay, and after a fight I was set to be involved in fell through, it was very difficult.
“I had to stay in full-time work as a bricklayer, and because of the situation I was in, I was at rock bottom and depressed.
“The club threw me a massive lifeline, and picked me back up. I was in a dark place, but I’ve been a different man over the last two months, and I’m back doing what I love and training full-time, which is what I need.”
Anthony met the Shields players before the game, and also talked with Mariners midfielder Julio Arca, who himself is preparing for a charity boxing bout in May.
Anthony and Mal were given the VIP treatment by the Mariners on Saturday – although the boxer was not able to take full advantage.
He added: “The hospitality the club put on was brilliant, and everyone was great with us. I enjoyed it, and it was great to see Shields win.
“We were served a three-course meal, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the most of it because of the diet I’m on. It killed me to have to pass on the cheesecake, because that’s one of my favourites, so I’ll go back so I can fully appreciate it when I’m not training for a fight.
“It was really good for me to go there, because some people who I wouldn’t normally see or reach were there.
“It’s great that we’re working together, because we both want to put the town on the map in our sports.”
Michael Orr, South Shields FC’s managing director, said: “This is a great example of two sports joining together with the common aim of promoting sporting achievement, whilst raising the profile of the town of South Shields to a wider audience.
“Having met Anthony, I have no doubt he will reward our contribution with the utmost dedication and determination to achieve his ambitions. We wish him all the success he deserves.”