Steve's last shot at the British title

IPSWICH fighter Steve Spartacus is all set to go to war for the British title he has craved for more than half his life.His big chance comes on Friday when he takes on former Commonwealth and WBU world champion Tony Oakey for the vacant British light-heavyweight crown.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH fighter Steve Spartacus is all set to go to war for the British title he has craved for more than half his life.

His big chance comes on Friday when he takes on former Commonwealth and WBU world champion Tony Oakey for the vacant British light-heavyweight crown.

But there is more than the national title at stake - 30-year-old Spartacus concedes he is fighting for his future in the sport.

He admitted: “No doubt about it - this is very much the last-chance saloon as far as I'm concerned.

“There is absolutely no chance of me not giving it my very best shot because ever since I was 14 it has been my goal to become British champion.

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“Now I've got my chance, ironically when I least expected it and against a guy I have always admired and wanted to fight.”

The contest was only given the go-ahead last week by the British Boxing Board of Control and it has been full steam ahead for both men ever since.

Spartacus explained: “It has been mad over the last few days - contracts, managers, options and money - but to me a fight's a fight and you turn down the chance to go after the British title.

“I was due to box Peter Haymer for the English title and that would have been the chief support bout on an excellent bill.

“But what happened in London a couple of weeks ago, when Oakey was supposed to fight Peter Oboh, changed all that.”

Oboh, ring rusty after a three-year absence, got cold feet on the night and staged a dramatic walk-out that resulted in him being stripped of his British title.

With top-of-the-bill Lenny Daws also without a fight - Canada's Chad Brisson declined the opportunity to challenge for the Commonwealth title - the promoters had to think quickly.

Thus Spartacus-Oakley was arranged at short notice, much to the relief of Sky Sports and, no doubt, Oakey's followers after 300 of them made the wasted journey from Portsmouth in the hope of seeing their man in action against Oboh.

Instead, along with millions of armchair fight fans, they witnessed a complete embarrassing non-event that resulted in Oboh also being kicked out of the sport.

But for Spartacus being paired with Oakey, the satellite channel would have scrapped their Friday Fight Night spectacular - but now the show goes ahead as planned.

Haymer and Daws are also scheduled to fight further down the card, leaving the 12-round clash between the Ipswich man and Oakey to capture the limelight.

Spartacus confirmed he has long been a big fan of Oakey and expects a real ding-dong contest at the ExCeL Centre, close to Canary Wharf, tomorrow night.

He said: “People have said they are expecting a great fight and I can't see us disappointing them. It will be like two bulls in a china shop.

“But I'm the best puncher and I believe I'm stronger. If he walks straight into me, fine, I'll love it. Styles make fights and this one has war written all over it.”

The pair have similar records, Spartacus winning 19 of his 22 professional bouts and 31-year-old Oakey successful in 23 of his 25, while neither has suffered a clear-cut defeat.

Spartacus said: “Oakey is a first-class fighter. He was a double ABA champ as an amateur and went on to become Commonwealth champ before winning the WBU world title.

“He defended it three times and only lost on a split points decision. Then he failed a drugs test and suffered a ban, but all the talk is that he is now back to his best so I'm expecting it to be very tough.”

Spartacus revealed that manager Tony Sims was thinking of pulling him out of the fight after an old elbow problem, which previously required surgery, flared up and caused him to sit out two sparring sessions.

But he added: “I told Tony I would fight in whatever shape I was in. I can't believe my luck that I'm going for the British title and there's no way I would chuck the chance away.

“I nearly boxed Oakey at short notice three years ago when I was unbeaten in 13 fights and he was WBU champ. I'd have fancied my chances then because I was flying.

“The year I've had has been a real downer, what with my injuries and debatable defeats, but I've toughed it out.

“I'm more experienced now and have learned my trade as a sparring partner to the best of them all over the world. Believe me, that's a hard way to make a few quid.

“That will hold me in good stead. Oakey is tough as teak and has an unbelievable work rate and I'll need to at least match it.”