The gloves are off as fierce rivals look to settle their dispute in grudge match

Seamus Devlin shows off one of his prized straps
Seamus Devlin shows off one of his prized straps
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The gloves are off for two-time English UBBF champion Seamus Devlin as he prepares to take on his old adversary Chris Wheeldon.

The two will look to settle their differences once and for all in a bare knuckle grudge match at the BEC Arena in Manchester on March 30th.

Chris Wheeldon in action

Chris Wheeldon in action

The arch rivals had once been sparring partners at the Muscle House Gym in Warrington, owned by promoter Shaun Smith, but their friendship soon turned sour following a difference of opinion two years ago.

Now they’re putting everything on the line to settle their feud in three two-minute rounds as part of a huge fight card.

The 30-year-old, from Padiham, said: “It’s a big fight. This will be my fourth bare knuckle fight and I’m going to make it count. We can’t stand each other.

“When Shaun Smith took me on and allowed me to train in the gym I had no experience what-so-ever. That’s where I met Chris Wheeldon.

“He used to paste me in sparring. I went six rounds with him, I had to pick myself off the canvas numerous times and I was black and blue.

“We became friends after that because he respected me. Now, two years later, I’m fighting him on equal terms.”

He added: “I’ve closed the bridge between us since then and in terms of ability I’ve got the edge, there’s no doubt about that.

“I’ve done more gloved fights than him and I’m more educated in different aspects of boxing. He’s extremely fit because he’s a PT, he trains hard and he’s got a half decent boxing brain. But the gap has definitely been narrowed.

“I am a realist, though, and I know he is the stronger and more experienced man in terms of BKB.”

Shots have been fired across various social media platforms for a number of months now, and the pair exchanged words at the face-off, but Devlin is ready to show the world that actions speak louder than words.

His scrap with Wheeldon, a former English bare knuckle champion at middleweight and a former UBKB British cruiserweight king, will be captured by Netflix, who have previously featured the promotion in a docuseries called ‘Bare Knuckle Fight Club’, which reveals the bloody and ruthless underworld of the sport.

This is a big deal for the former St Augustine’s RC High School pupil, who has put plans to turn over to professional boxing on the back-burner.

Devlin, who is planning on signing with Kevin Maree when his bare-knuckle days are behind him, said: “We’ve got to put everything to bed on March 30th. We fell out over a difference of opinion and now it’s just snowballed. It’s a massive fight and there’ll be a few media outlets there.

“Everyone is talking about this fight. This is the one that they’re all coming to see. This isn’t just any old fight, this is personal for me. It means everything to me. I’ve even put turning pro on the back-burner for it.

“The guy is a warrior and I’ve got a lot of respect for him. This is the safest way to settle our difference of opinion.”

Devlin, who has been training at North West Muay Thai, Larches and Savick ABC in Preston, Muscle Factory and Kokoro Kickboxing in Accrington, added that he’ll be putting the emotion of it all to one side when they go to war.

“The best analogy I can offer is a kettle on simmer,” he said. “I’ve got to keep that lid on. Anger is bad for you, it’s dangerous, forces you to make mistakes and leaves you open.

“It needs to be controlled, effective aggression. Your head and body have to work in unison. That’s really important.

“I’ll be on the back foot. I can’t afford to try and hold centre of the ring and trade with him. I’ll be slipping shots because the tough man always gets hurt in this game.

“It’s all about the angle, two-phased attacks, quick and being light on my feet. I’m going out to win the fight. I know the blueprint to beating this man.

“I have huge respect for Shaun and Amanda Smith. They gave me a chance two years ago and now they’ve handed me the biggest opportunity and biggest fight of my BKB career.”

Other contests on the card include Ross Priestner v Sean Wilkinson, Martyn Cavna v Luka Curri, Corey Keen v John Spencer, Mad Joe v Peter Adam in a light welterweight title fight, and Will Cairns v Duane Keen.