Forest Town plasterer’s boxing tribute to his brave cancer-battling wife

Steve in action in the ring.
Steve in action in the ring.

A Forest Town plasterer whose wife contracted terminal breast cancer raised money for charity by stepping into the ring for a boxing match - and enjoyed it so much he has done it twice since.

Former semi-professional footballer Steve Walker, aged 35, has raised £4,500 for charity by getting in the ring despite having never boxed before – and is now encouraging others to have a go.

Steve and Gemma with son Owen.

Steve and Gemma with son Owen.

Mr Walker raised the money in honour of his “beautiful” wife of eight years, Gemma, also 35.

In 2016, doctors told the couple Mrs Walker had breast cancer, which has now spread to other areas of her body and is terminal.

But Mr Walker, who lives on New Mill Lane with his wife and their six-year-old son Owen, says his wife has been so “strong” throughout chemotherapy he was inspired to raise money for her.

Though “sporty” Mr Walker played football up until he was 31 and played for teams across the area, including Forest Town FC and FC05 Bilsthorpe, he has never boxed, so decided to sign up to Ultra White Collar Boxing.

Gemma and Owen.

Gemma and Owen.

The organisation coaches beginners with eight-weeks of free professional training before a bout with an opponent and any money participants raise through sponsorship goes to Cancer Research UK.

Mr Walker won his first bout in July 2017, at the John Fretwell Centre, Sookholme, and loved it so much he fought in a second Ultra White Collar event at the centre in November 2018, this time drawing.

He says he “wished he got into boxing sooner” in life and has also fought in a third bout separately through his local gym which he lost.

Mr Walker, who met his wife when they both worked for the same plastering firm, says: “My wife getting cancer pushed the buttons for me to do it, I was inspired by her strength and wanted to raise money for her.

Steve, Gemma and Owen.

Steve, Gemma and Owen.

“I had always liked the idea of getting into boxing - now I just wish I did it much sooner in life.

“My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and then got secondary in her bones.

“Now doctors have found it on her lungs and possibly some specs in her stomach too.

“Sadly it’s terminal and she’s having chemotherapy. It’s been difficult, things like this change your life completely.

“Gemma has been so strong, it gave me the push I needed to jump in the ring.

“Getting into the ring for a few rounds is nothing compared with what my wife and other cancer sufferers go through.

“It’s been hard on Owen, too. We try to give him as much love as possible.

“When she was diagnosed I was shocked, it was really tough. It makes you look at life in a different perspective.

“We’re not sure how long Gemma has left, but it’s just a case of keeping going. Being a mum is keeping Gemma focused.

“We have holidays booked for later in the year, we’re going skiing in March and to Mexico later in the year. We’re just trying to balance life and make memories.”

Mr Walker has raised nearly £4,500 through his Ultra White Collar Boxing fights.

And the former striker, who scored “15 to 20 goals a season”, winning leagues and reaching cup finals, says boxing is “completely different” to playing football. M

He says: “Boxing is completely different. When you have 10 others around you on a football pitch, they can cover up your mistakes, but if you make a mistake in the ring you’ve shot it, as you’re on your own.”

“I was pretty nervous both times, it’s no easy feat.

“Strangely I was actually a bit more nervous the second fight, but it’s not about winning or losing and both were great fun.

“My wife was there both times, she was very nervous but excited at the same time.

“When I first told her I was going to box for charity, she was a little scared, but proud of me too.

“My son wasn’t there but he kept asking about it, I think I made him proud.

“It’s incredible how generous people can be, so many people turned up for my fights which was amazing.

“The eight weeks of training is tough, but when you remember why you’re doing it you are spurred on.”

He was trained at Sor Chang Kow Muay Thai Camp, Phoenix Street, Sutton, by coach Lee Chester.

Kelly White, who organises Ultra White Collar Boxing events in Mansfield, says anyone looking to sign up for the next night on April 14 must sign up by February 11.

She says: “The next bout are at the John Fretwell on April 14, it’s a popular venue, on the night it looks great inside and it’s always buzzing with a great atmosphere – it usually sells out.

“The last sign-up date is February 11, so people should get in touch before if they want to take part.

“The most we’ve raised from an event in Mansfield is £9,000, which is amazing, we are hoping to match that or raise even more.

Participants will be trained at the Sor Chang Kow Muay Thai Camp twice a week.

Ultra Events offer participants the chance to step out of their comfort zone and raise money for Cancer Research UK by taking part in boxing, ballroom dancing, mixed martial arts, darts or comedy.

All events are open to male and female participants over the age of 18.

The events include eight weeks of free training before taking part in a showcase event in front of friends, families and colleagues.