Boxing truly is a sport that accommodates all walks of life. Whether it be an outlet for anger, a means to lose weight, or quite simply a safe haven from the pressures of real life, boxing welcomes all comers with open arms.
For Bristol super-bantamweight, Ash Lane, the story could not get any sweeter right now. From what began as an escape from local bullies, Lane’s journey in boxing will lead to him ending 2017 as a Commonwealth champion.
‘’I got into boxing at 15, I was bullied all through primary and middle school due to a speech impediment. In upper school, I was being bullied again so my mum took me to a boxing gym which was opened by ex-professional John Daly. I only went to stop the bullies but I loved it.’’
An unlikely refuge. An even unlikely career choice. An unlikely champion. But even the harshest of critics would struggle not to feel a warmth when reading about the Ash Lane story.
The road to title glory has by no means an easy one. In a past marred with bouts of homelessness and financial woe, boxing remained the one constant for the determined, newly crowned champion.
Humble beginnings as a journeyman lead to sparring with fellow Bristolian and former IBF world champion, Lee Haskins. From there, a new hope was ignited. Every boxer wants to be a champion, and Ash Lane was ready to make that move from run of the mill show filler, to a championship fighter.
Zero to hero. A story you truly could not make up.
With a record of 10-8-2 going into the fight, no one expected Lane to emerge from the fight as a hero. But now with a Commonwealth strap to add to his already collected Midlands Area, anything seems possible for ‘Flash’, who spoke with undeniable joy and swagger as he described the events of a truly memorable evening.
‘‘Wow. I can’t put my emotions into words. Elation, relief, happiness. I’m feeling on cloud nine. These past few weeks, I have felt like a celebrity everywhere I have gone. It’s been amazing.’’
Before his title winning performance against Michael Ramabeletsa, the Bristol native has accumulated an impressive resume in the 122lbs division. A hard-fought draw with Gavin McDonnell in only his fourth fight, and sharing the ring with current WBA super-flyweight World champion Kal Yafai, shining as notable career moments until now.
And although his record may not be as clean and polished as other title holders, Lane will now sit pretty with the likes of Carl Frampton, Kid Galahad and Gamal Yafai as a holder of the prestigious Commonwealth title.
The sky really is the limit for the 27-year-old, who oozed a new sense of confidence as he described his plan to use the hurricane of momentum built from the last fight to take his fairy tale story to the next level.
‘’My next goal is to defend the Commonwealth and look straight for the European and World. I want to avenge club mate Lee Haskins’ loss to Ryan Burnett and bring his World title back [to Bristol].’’
‘’I have a mandatory defence against a Ghanaian fighter called Emmanuel Quartey. 23 fights, 21 wins and 19 knockouts, so I’m not looking to overlook him. I have a job to do and providing I win, I’ll start to look ahead to bigger honours.’’
Past events often cut the shape of man. Ash Lane now has the world at his feet, and despite the ‘Flash’ handle, spoke humbly as he expressed his desire to never forget the reason he entered the sport of boxing.
‘’I have shown that you don’t need all the skill and ability to achieve. Anyone can do it, they just have to work hard enough and most importantly listen to the coaches.’’
‘’I have already received numerous messages from young people as my story had given them inspiration and hope going through tough times.’’
It must be stressed that boxing is so much more than the Anthony Joshua’s and Floyd Mayweather’s. And, although both men provide as excellent role models for the sport, it is the little stories that mean more to me.
Stories of defying the odds. Stories of the heroes that were once zeros. Stories of everyday men carving success from the cruellest of sports.
23rd September 2017 will be a day engraved in the memory of Ash Lane for life. The night will be one relived proudly to friends and grandchildren over the years.
The celebration period is over, and Lane returns to training not only a champion, but also as a shining beacon of hope for the thousands of children across the country who have ever been bullied. Back to the grindstone and always working, I sincerely look forward to watching with great keenness as the next chapter of this already fascinating story writes itself.
Follow Ash’s journey on Twitter: @ashlane68
Written by Thomas Humber