South Shields Football Club has an unlikely new signing – English and Commonwealth boxing champion Anthony Nelson!
A partnership between the two has been announced, which will see the Mariners sponsor the super-flyweight in the lead-up to his next fight.
And it is support Nelson has described as a “life-saver” as he aims for a shot at the British title.
Nelson, who trains at the Harton and Westoe Miners’ Welfare Gym under the tutelage of Mal Gates, even considered retirement during a frustrating winter which saw two big opportunities fall through as he briefly lost faith in the sport.
He had to go back to full-time work as a bricklayer, but now has the bit between his teeth again after the Northern League club allowed him to concentrate on his boxing.
Nelson, nicknamed Babyface, said: “It has been a frustrating few months since my last fight, because several opportunities have fallen through and I’ve been working around the clock.
The more myself and the football club can do for South Shields, the better. We’re both trying to put the town on the map in our own sportsAnthony Nelson
“Over Christmas, I became so disheartened that I was ready to pack boxing in altogether.
“I was struggling to get to the gym, so for (chairman) Geoff Thompson and South Shields Football Club to come on board has been a life-saver.
“It’s massive to have this sponsorship and support, and has released so much stress for me.
“I’m not having to work out when my next money is coming in to put food on the table and pay my bills. All I have to think about is my job, which is to train and get fit.”
Nelson now hopes both himself and the club can put the town “on the map” in their respective sports.
He added: “I’ve got the bug back, and this support allows me to target the British title, which would be fantastic.
“The more myself and the football club can do for South Shields, the better. We’re both trying to put the town on the map in our own sports.
“It’s fantastic to see the club doing so well, and I’m delighted they have come on board.”
Gates has coached Nelson throughout his career, which has included big title wins at Temple Park, in South Shields, and the Metro Radio Arena, in Newcastle.
He said: “Anthony has done fantastically well to win three major belts and remain unbeaten whilst having to work full-time for 10 out of his 11 fight camps.
“However, he is now at the stage were he has to be able to train full-time to give him every opportunity to win the belt we have next in our sights – the British title.
“Not only would this be a massive achievement for him, but he would be the first boxer from South Shields to challenge for the coveted Lonsdale belt, and we need to give him every opportunity to win it and fulfil his potential.
“We are absolutely delighted to have linked up with South Shields Football Club and hopefully we can bring more success to our hometown.
“Having met Geoff, we were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and encouragement he showed towards Anthony’s achievements and future ambitions.
“I think he recognised that like himself with the football team, we are also trying to put South Shields on the map for boxing.”
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.”