FEATURE: Peterborough fighter Callan Harley setting sights on British title tilt

For years, Callan Harley’s number was the only one unlicensed boxing promoters needed if they were looking for an opponent.

By Matthew Bozeat
Thursday, 11th November 2021, 10:09 am
Callan Harley
Callan Harley

“I would fight whoever they couldn’t match,” said the 35 year-old.

“If there was a local fighter who had sold loads of tickets and didn’t have an opponent, promoters always knew: ‘If nobody else will fight him, Callan from Peterborough will.’

“I would get phone calls asking: ‘Can you fight tomorrow night ?’ or even: ‘How soon can you get to Watford for a fight ?’

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Callan Harley (right) in action

“I was fighting every week, sometimes twice in a weekend.

“I usually gave away weight, sometimes as much as 10 kgs, and always had the crowd against me. I would drive down there on my own, grab someone when I got there and say: ‘How about going in my corner tonight ?’

“They always wanted the home fighter to win, so if I took a couple of clean punches the referee would jump in – and I never got a close points decision go my way.”

Harley is now looking to write his own ‘Rocky’ story after making the switch to bareknuckle boxing.

“I got a bit comfortable being a journeyman,” he said, “and when BKB came along it gave me a buzz again.

“I thought to myself: ‘This is for me.’ The thought of fighting bareknuckle scared the life out of me and that’s just what I needed. It gave me back my edge. I know I can’t afford to take punches in a bareknuckle fight.”

Harley didn’t take many on his debut, a convincing points win over Jamie Oldfield in September.

He said: “I felt comfortable in there. I have a text book, jab-and-move style that worked, but you have to commit to your punches in BKB.

“They are tough lads and you can’t let them walk through your punches. I know I can take shots and give them because I’ve had a lot of unlicensed fights, but it’s a lot harder in bareknuckle boxing.”

Mark Handley promises to be a tough opponent for Harley at the O2 Arena on Saturday, November 20, a former MMA fighter who says he’s scrapping to keep his career going.

Defeat could send the Shrewsbury electrician into retirement after two decades in combat sports, while Harley is excited by his future in BKB

“I’m not going back to gloved boxing now,” he said. “I’m going to run with this and see how far I can go.

“I’m fighting in a sport that excites me at a great arena. I won’t match this anywhere else and I’ve been told if I win my next two or three I could be in contention for the British title.

“If I won the British title I could retire happy. There would be no comebacks.

“I would retire happy if I could call myself the first British bareknuckle boxing champion from Peterborough.”