Make or break fight coming up for the new ‘Cinderella Man’

Karl Wheeler (right) in action.
Karl Wheeler (right) in action.
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Peterborough cruiserweight Karl Wheeler says he plans to be boxing’s new ‘Cinderella Man’ in 2016.

Despite defeat in his last fight, Wheeler gets a shot at the International Challenge belt at the York Hall in Bethnal Green on Saturday, March 19.

The 33 year-old meets Portsmouth’s unbeaten Biola Kudus over eight rounds.

Should he win, promoter Steve Goodwin then plans a show in Wheeler’s home city, possibly in May.

That news has put a smile back on Wheeler’s face following last month’s shock loss to Yavor Marinchev and has given him the chance to write another chapter in his fistic fairytale.

Stephen Whitwell, Wheeler’s St Ives-based trainer and manager, calls the fighter ‘The Cinderella Man.’

The original ‘Cinderella Man’ was James J Braddock, who left the dole queues of the Great Depression behind to win the world heavyweight championship with possibly the biggest upset in ring history, a points win over playboy Max Baer in 1935.

Wheeler has had his troubles, battling severe depression during an eight-and-a-half year lay-off from the ring, and like Braddock’s, he’s determined his story will have a happy ending.

He said: “Steve knows what I’ve been through.

“He knows about the hard times I’ve had with injuries and away from the ring and is convinced I will get a break one day and that’s why he calls me ‘The Cinderella Man.’

“When I wasn’t boxing, I had a bad spell with severe depression. I was on medication for six years.

“It started after I stopped boxing and lost my daughter. It all happened at once and it was too much for me. I went downhill. I couldn’t get out of bed for days.

“My son (Onri) kept me going and eventually, I decided I wanted to box again.

“Because I had been on medication, the (British Boxing) Board (of Control) didn’t license me at first.

“I kept applying and finally, they let me fight again.

“I’m hoping my story might give someone else hope. I’ve found out that it doesn’t matter how low you are, there’s always a way out.

“I believe everyone suffers with some kind of depression at some point in their life and I have shown you can come through it.

“I haven’t talked about what I’ve been through before because I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.

“I want them to like me for who I am, but if my story helps someone, I feel I should tell it.”

Wheeler is a big ticket seller and is sure to take plenty of support to East London for what looks like a make-or-break fight.

Kudus has won all four of his fights - two inside-the-distance - and it’s a tough task for Wheeler.

“It’s a hard fight,” said Wheeler, “but I’ve had to take it to prove myself.

“He’s bigger than me, has won all his fights and people are raving about him.

“I know I’m the underdog, but I’ve been the underdog all my life.

“When everyone says I can’t win that’s when I fight my heart out and win.”