Padiham gladiator Seamus Devlin edged out by Chris Wheeldon

Bare knuckle fighter Seamus Devlin captured the hearts and minds of fight fans at the BEC Arena in Manchester when shedding his underdog tag to push old adversary Chris Wheeldon to the brink.

Seamus Devlin (left) takes on Chris Wheeldon at the BEC Arena in Manchester
Seamus Devlin (left) takes on Chris Wheeldon at the BEC Arena in Manchester

The 30-year-old, a two-time English UBBF champion, lost out on a split decision to his former Muscle House Gym sparring partner but gained the respect of his nemesis with a gritty and determined display.

Wheeldon, a former English bare knuckle champion at middleweight and a former UBKB British cruiserweight king, had Devlin down in the second with a thumping right hook to the temple but he was forced to dig his claws in to stay ahead on the scorecards thereafter.

"I'm in perfect health," Devlin confirmed. "It was a good fight, it went well, but he had me down in the second round.

"He thought it was going to be over in one round but I think I won over everybody's hearts with that performance.

"I saw his face, I could see it in his eyes, one more round and he was finished. I'm not a three-round fighter, I still had another three or four rounds in the tank.

"I'm not disrespecting him, the worst thing you can do in this industry is take away a man's victory and dishonour him, but the pictures spoke volumes. They told their own tale. I may not have won the fight but I won the war."

The Padiham gladiator is renowned for having one of the best jabs in the business, a weapon he was reliant on over the three two-minute rounds, but the disappointment lay in the redundancy of his back hand.

Devlin said: "I utilised my jab well, which inflicted some damage. I've got one of the best jabs in the game.

"I wanted to heighten the aggression but he dropped me with a beautiful right hook and that knocked me back in to second gear.

"It was a flash knock down, he landed right on the temple, and I got up at nine. I think that was the defining factor in a fight that I was told was 'razor close'.

"I thought I under-performed on the night which is why I'm taking a lot of positives from it. I didn't let my back hand go enough. I respected his power, I felt it and that made me quite tentative."

The former St Augustine’s RC High School pupil is still a relative novice in this game - that was only his fourth bare knuckle contest - but it's a challenge he's relished since being taken under promoter Shaun Smith's wing.

"I was a heavy underdog, I got in to this game because I'm a fighting man," he said. "Self-preservation doesn't exist in my repertoire. The concept of defeat doesn't faze me, I want to test my psychological and physical limits.

"I love testing my mental fortitude. I like the art of war; it appeals to my nature. I just enjoy pushing the boundaries."