Football favourite Julio Arca is fighting fit as he gets ready to swap sports next month.
The former Sunderland midfielder – who now plays in the Northern League with South Shields FC – is preparing for a charity boxing match.
He will take on fundraising champion Mark Solan at Rainton Meadows Arena, in Houghton, on Saturday, May 7.
In the lead-up to the bout, the popular Argentinean has been training up to four times a week at boxing gyms in the North East.
As the 35-year-old explains, after losing up to 1kg in gruelling sessions, he has more respect for professional boxers than ever.
Julio – who has made 26 appearances for South Shields so far this season, scoring 11 goals – said: “Training is going well.
It’s a completely different kind of training to football, and there’s nowhere to hideJulio Arca
“It was difficult to adapt at first, and I was tense because I was concerned about getting punched. You have to get used to being punched in the face, and once you accept that, you become more comfortable.
“I’m not training like a professional boxer would do, but it is very high intensity.
“It’s a completely different kind of training to football, and there’s nowhere to hide. In football, if you’re having a bad day, you have 10 teammates to save you.
“The top professional boxers train three to four times a day, and the amount of work they put in is incredible. You don’t realise how difficult it is until you step into the ring yourself.
“You always lose a little bit of weight after training.
“Last week, I lost 1kg after one hard session. It was non-stop.
“We did circuit training, sparring, and lots of other things. After that day, I realised how hard boxing was.
“I felt great afterwards, but when you’re working, it’s very hard.
“You have to push yourself. There’s certainly no place for lazy people.”
Julio was encouraged to take on the fight by South Shields teammate Daryll Hall, who has been one of those sparring with him.
Funds from the night of boxing, which will feature nine other bouts, will go to a number of good causes helped by The Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust. They include St Cuthbert’s Hospice, in Durham, and St Teresa’s Hospice, in Darlington.
Julio, meanwhile, has an online fundraising page, where the money will go to Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens. Funds can be donated at www.justgiving.com/Julio-Arca
He added: “The main thing is to raise money for so many good causes.
“Every little bit of help for these charities will go a long way.”
It is hoped that about 1,000 people will attend, and tickets cost between £25 and £30. The doors will open at 6.30pm.
For more details, or to buy tickets – which are selling fast – visit Daryll Hall Promotions at www.facebook.com/boxingnights. or contact Julio on Twitter at www.twitter.com/julioarcaok.