Former Commonwealth champion Luke Blackledge given the green light to fight on!
The 30-year-old super-middleweight fighter, who challenged Callum Smith for the British title just over four years ago, had his licence suspended pending results of medical examinations.
Blackledge had to undergo an obligatory neuropsychological assessment in York to determine whether he was fit enough to see out the final chapter of his career.
But specialists were happy with results from the extensive tests carried out and gave Blackledge the green light to keep fighting on.
“I can’t get rid of him,” joked Maree. “He’s been medically cleared. We weren’t 100 per cent sure on Luke’s medical so we had it checked and double-checked.
“You’ve got to go for a neuropsychological test now where you get examined like those who have been involved in major car accidents to get a further assessment done.
“That determines where you go from there and then eight different doctors look at your records and your tests to ensure that everything is okay. From there they decide whether you get your licence back.
“Eight different doctors, a specialist and the British Boxing Board of Control, who monitor the brain scans, said that there aren’t any problems that will affect his boxing. He’s cleared and he’s ready to go.”
Blackledge has been inactive since October 2019 when he lost for the third time on the bounce for the first time in his career.
After being outpointed by Chad Sugden and Ollie Pattison earlier that year, he would retire in the fourth round against unbeaten German Denis Radovan at the O2 Arena in London.
“It’s taken longer than expected to get it done due to the pandemic, but everybody wanted to get it right,” said Maree, who is Blackledge’s manager.
“I’ll always tell any of my lads that have to go through this process, categorically, if the doctors have any doubts or they pick up on any discrepancies then I won’t be appealing it. It’s got to be bang on.
“They suspend it pending further investigations. He never had his licence revoked, he was never stopped from boxing, they just needed to run more tests.
“Every base is covered so it means that it’s much safer.
“It’s happening so regularly now and in my opinion it will come to a time when every boxer in the country will have to do it.
“Over the last year I’ve had four lads that have needed this extra assessment.”
The big question now is where does Blackledge go from here?
This time last year he had been in camp in preparation for the Ultimate Boxxer series
Blackledge had been invited to join Ben Ridings, Charlie Schofield, Idris Virgo, Seb Eubank, Mark Jeffers, Diego Costa and Tommy Philbin at Altrincham’s Planet Ice Arena for the seventh installment of the show.
The 168lb version of the competition was due to be fronted by the likes of former WBA lightweight champion Anthony Crolla, one-time WBA welterweight champion Paul Malignaggi, Steve Bunce, Jack Fincham and Layla Anna-Lee, live on BT Sport and Youtube.
However, things have changed. Maree said: “Luke is great, he’s a cracking lad, he’s got a heart of gold.
“We need to sit down and have a meeting. I don’t want him to have any more tough fights, I’d prefer him to go on the road.
“Luke wants to stay in the sport and earn some money from boxing before it comes to him retiring. I’m not sure Luke has it in him anymore to do these big title fights because it’s not just the opponent, it’s the 12-week training camp and the sparring that comes with it.
“If he operates as more of a journeyman then he doesn’t have to train or spar as much. The level of opposition won’t be as hard and he’ll earn more money.
“We need to have a meeting to see which pathway we take. He might ask if we can roll the dice one more time, but that would be my plan.”
Maree added: “His best days were probably 10 years ago. He can earn a lot of money on the road and he won’t get hurt. He might fight a few prospects, but it’ll only be six or eight rounds.
"He’s got a lot of thinking to do, but I’m glad he got his licence back because he wasn’t ready to retire.
“He knows the end is around the corner so now he needs to live his life and start looking after his money.
“I just don’t want him in any really hard fights any more against these top lads.
“It might take him a while for him to get tuned into it because he will still get those offers, but we’ll see. This is his life.
“The main thing is that he’s a friend and I’ll look after him. He’s somebody that I’ve got a lot of time for.
“When it is time for him to call it a day it’ll be me that tells him that.”