Paul Ingle: Life without boxing is toughest fight
A TEAR forming in his eye as his speech begins to break up with emotion, Paul Ingle pauses, then admits he's lost without boxing.
It's no moment of clarity, Ingle has never hid his agony, but his words still strike with the same venom as one of the punches that took him to the summit of the sport.
Unrecognisable from the aggressive 27-year-old who fought his way to a world title, the affect of his enforced retirement from the sport resonates just as loud today.
It is 12 years since the Yorkshire Hunter had his reason for existence ripped away from him and he's still not come to terms with the gaping hole left behind.
Save upto £900 on Britannia Range Cookers at Hanson ElectricalView details
Call into our store on Willerby Road, Hull to view the fantastic range
Terms: This offer applies to ex display cookers only and is subject to availability
Contact: 01482 423080
Valid until: Saturday, June 08 2013
"For me, as soon as the boxing stopped, my life stopped dead. I am lost without it," explains Ingle, with the pain of those words etched across his face.
A far cry from the glitz and glamour of his Madison Square Garden appearance, Ingle's life is now one of hardship.
Living on his disability allowance in his hometown of Scarborough, he cannot work, cannot drive and, most painfully for Ingle, cannot box.
On December 16, 2000, Ingle lost his IBF featherweight world title as the hardest fight of his life began, a fight he's still struggling with to this day.
Chasing the contest against Mbulelo Botile at the Sheffield Arena having been knocked down in the 11th round, Ingle was sent crashing to the canvas again in the 12th and final round and stayed there.
The fight quickly became secondary as Ingle was treated in the ring, then taken away on a stretcher with scans revealing a blood clot on his brain.
Days of real concern gave way to weeks of worrying and then, finally, hope. Ingle's life would never be the same again, but he'd won the most important fight. Now came the hardest fight.
"I still miss boxing 110 per cent, I can't even begin to say how much I miss it," says Ingle.
"Every day I was out and about boxing. Training or sparring, it was boxing, boxing, boxing. It was all I did, it's all I've ever done. I love it to bits and I miss it so much.
"If they said to me tomorrow you can go fight again but you are at risk, I'd still fight. I loved it that much and I miss it so badly. Even though I'd be at risk I'd get back in the ring. It's all I've done from being nine years old, it's all I've ever wanted to do.
"I've never had it so tough in my whole life, it's tougher than any boxing match. First of all to be told you can never box again, that's something I can't get over.
"It's not just that, the long list of things I can't do, it's hard to get used to that. It's a nightmare and that's why I'm thankful for the people around me who look after me and keep me in check."
• Gallery Boxer Paul Ingle's career in pictures
Ingle's cause is set to be helped when a new boxing charity, the Blue Glove Foundation, holds its inaugural dinner in his honour at the KC Stadium in May.
The proceeds from the event will go to Ingle, who says he's determined to use the help to get back on track.
"This will make a massive difference to me," he adds. "I'm no Mike Tyson, I'm not a millionaire who made lots and lots of money from boxing, far from it.
"I have a mortgage and bills to pay and this will help me so much, I really appreciate what everyone is doing for me.
"I'm trying to get back into training and losing some weight. I know it will help me feel a lot better if I can lose some weight. I've put a fair bit on over the years and I want to get that off."
In his heyday Ingle was a 9st featherweight with the speed and variation that made him one of the most potent boxers of his generation.
From his debut victory against Darren Noble in 1994 until his world title fight with Naseem Hamed, he remained unbeaten.
Bouncing back from his first loss to Naz in some style, Ingle captured the world title in the biggest night of boxing his adopted hometown of Hull had ever witnessed, beating Manuel Medina in 12 hard-fought rounds.
A trip to the most famous venue in boxing followed as Ingle silenced the New York crowd at Madison Square Garden with an 11th-round stoppage of Junior Jones.
His next fight would be his last.
Ingle may have partial blindness in his left eye and his speech is slow as a result of two life-saving operations, but as he recalls those halcyon days you can see the twinkle in his eye return.
"I was on the under card of Lennox Lewis' title fight. Not many people get to go to Madison Square Garden, let alone compete on a bill there," says Ingle, visibly lifted by the memory.
"The crowd were unbelievable that night and the 400 people from around here made so much noise it was like fighting at home, I'll never forget the noise of that night.
"I'm very proud of what I achieved. I won everything possible, British, Commonwealth, European and world titles. I went to America and fought at Madison Square Garden, a lad from Scarborough at Madison Square Garden.
"I've done it all, but I am gutted I cannot fight anymore. I feel there was a few more titles in me had I been able to carry on.
"At the same time, I'm still here today and I am thankful that I am still here."