Karl Wheeler is aiming to end Peterborough’s long wait for a major boxing champion this Saturday night.
It is more than a quarter-of-a-century since Gary De Roux and Dave Pierre scooped Southern Area honours on the same December night at the city’s Mallard Park Hotel in 1990.
Now Wheeler is bidding to tread the same path as those illustrious fighters of the past when stepping into the ring at the famous York Hall in London.
The 34 year-old faces former champion Wadi Camacho for the vacant Southern Area cruiserweight crown.
Wheeler’s route to title contention hasn’t been conventional, but he is convinced the biggest night of his career can come complete with a silver lining.
And he’d love nothing more than proving his many doubters wrong in the process.
He said: “Training could not have gone any better. The sparring and pad work has been brilliant and I’ve done a lot of running.
“I don’t think I could have done anymore and I feel ready to fight my heart out on Saturday.
“I’ve waited such a long time to fight for a prestige title and I want to win it so bad.
“This is my big chance and I’ve got a fire inside me.
“It’s more than 25 years since Peterborough last had a recognised champion and I would love to be able to end that wait, but I’m not putting myself under any pressure.
“I’m just proud to have earned a fight like this because I was written off before my boxing career even began.
“People used to tell me that I wouldn’t get anywhere without an amateur background, but Ian Pauly took me under his wing and always had faith in me, and my current trainer Steve Whitwell has been the same ever since we joined forces.
“You can achieve anything in life if you work hard enough. I tell my son and daughter the same thing all the time.”
Wheeler spent the first chunk of his career under the guidance of former city-based trainer Pauly.
He made his pro debut in 2003 and won his first four fights, but then lost five of his next nine outings before a serious hand injury led to him taking a break from the sport.
That eventually lasted for around eight-and-a-half years until a 2014 comeback under the St Ives Boxing Academy banner, but even then it wasn’t plain sailing as knee trouble held him up.
However, Wheeler now appears to be in his prime after reeling off another four-fight winning streak in the past year.
It is a run which has included British and International Challenge title honours and victory in the Fight Cup competition organised by promoters Goodwin Boxing.
His final success against Ryan Crawford in that event is what earned the Southern Area shot against Camacho – a big puncher who boasts 10 knockouts among his 16 wins.
And Wheeler expects his Spanish-born, London-based rival to come flying out of the traps again this weekend.
He added: “Wadi is a bit of a big puncher who tries to blow people out whereas I’m a boxer with the fitness levels to go deep into a fight.
“Our records are similar so it’s probably a 50/50 fight on paper. Wadi is a nice guy. I like him and his family.
“But it might come down to who has a bigger heart and I know for a fact that is me.”
n Wheeler doesn’t just have big plans in the ring this year – he’s also launching a business venture.
Wheeler and his partner, Lisa, are opening a gym called F.I.T Studio in Bretton.
And he hopes to be able to tempt another young generation off the streets and into the ring - a path he took in his own life.
Wheeler said: “Being in the gym got me off the streets and allowed me to turn my life around when I was younger - now I want to help kids today do that.
“Joining Ian Pauly’s gym is what gave me focus. I didn’t want to do drink or drugs, or get arrested.
“Boxing is a great way of giving youngsters discipline and the chance to achieve in sport.
“I love teaching classes and I’m really excited about having our own gym.
“Lisa is the brains behind it and I’m the muscle!
“We’ve got the keys for the unit now and hoping to open in the summer.
“We’ll have a strong link with St Ives Boxing Academy and hopefully we can unearth a few quality fighters.”