After Haye’s cut, Hepper switches focus to the O2

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Sports Editor

A Darlington boxer is looking forward to taking part in a high-profile bout - a week after it was almost cancelled thanks to a cut sustained by David Haye.

Neil Hepper will face Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell MBE next week at the O2 Arena next Saturday after the bout was postponed by seven days.

It had been due to take place this evening on the undercard of the Haye-Tyson Fury clash in Manchester, but that was scrapped when Haye suffered a deep cut above his eye in sparring.

Promoter Eddie Hearn acted quickly and rescheduled most of the card to the O2 on Saturday October 5 and it means Hepper's fight with Campbell will be screened live on Sky Sports.

"It's a massive fight for Neil," said Neil Hamilton, Hepper's trainer.

"He's got a hell of a chance of beating this lad. I know Luke Campbell won a gold medal, but we're going there to spoil the party.

"It'll be on television and it's a massive opportunity to show the boxing community how good he is.

"You don't get many opportunities like this, you've got to grab it with both hands."

Haye's contest with Fury, which has rearranged for February 8, was postponed last Saturday morning.

Hamilton said: "It was called off on the Saturday morning, but very quickly it was moved and we knew by the evening that it was being postponed a week so that was a relief.

"It's been changed to the O2 and it's a good fight for the promoters.

"It's live on Sky Sports 1 and it's not on pay per view. It's a good one for Sky because they rate Luke Campbell as well as Neil.

"It's a 50-50 fight, Neil's trained extremely hard and I know he'll perform really well. I think he'll surprise a few people with how good he is.

"He's been with me for three years. We've not rushed him, we've taken your time with Neil but now he's starting to step it up and Luke Campbell is a step up a level for him, but he deserves this chance."

The bout will be Campbell's second since turning pro having stopped Andy Harris inside 90 seconds in July.

Hepper fought a fortnight ago when he defeated Youssef Al Hamidi at The Northern Echo Arena, meaning his record is now five wins and two losses.

Topping the bill next weekend will be Scott Quigg's WBA world super bantamweight title clash with Yoandris Salinas while Anthony Joshua MBE, also a gold medallist, is appearing.

"It's nearly sold-out," added Hamilton. "There's a lot of interest because of the gold medalists, Anthony Joshua and Campbell.

"We've been trying to get tickets because we've got quite a few going down there and we're struggling.

"All my pro boxers are wanting to go down and support Neil, but we can't get tickets yet."

Quigg and Salinas join a star-studded line-up as Anthony Joshua makes his professional bow, with British lightweight world title contender Kevin Mitchell facing Marco Lopez for the vacant IBF Inter-Continental lightweight title and unbeaten Welsh featherweight Lee Selby set to defend his British and Commonwealth titles against Ryan Walsh.

Also on the bill, unbeaten Prizefighter champions Larry Ekundayo and Glenn Foot meet in a light welterweight battle, and another Prizefighter champion Wadi Camacho faces Tony Conquest.

Hepper's chance in the Sky Sports spotlight is a fillip for Hamilton's gym, the Darlington Boxing & Martial Arts Academy (DBMA), which is based at The Northern Echo Arena.

He added: "We're doing really. We've just signed up another three pro lads, so we're up to nine now so we've become a very good stable for professional boxers and we're getting a good name for ourselves.

"They're Middlesbrough lads that have boxer for England at amateur level, James Kelvington and John Green.

"We do things professionally, we've got a good team behind us and we'd like to stop North-East lads going down to train at Sheffield or wherever and train with us instead."

DBMA's Chris Wood, from Darlington, was last night due to fight on a show at Elland Road in Leeds.

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