Dean said: “I’ve done Thai boxing and other martial arts in the past but bareknuckle was something I started watching on YouTube last year.
“Throughout the summer I was working 12 hour days putting up security fences at festivals. It tore up my hands and arms and I thought, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything’, so I signed up to start training.”
He added: “I want to have a career in mixed martial arts fighting and learn more styles, so I thought I’d go old school, back to the original style of boxing, and start from there.
“It’s a bit of an underdog sport at the moment, but it deserves to be recognised like any other. Some aspects are better than traditional boxing. There’s more technique, faster punches and more body shots – and it’s even safer in some ways without the gloves. I’ve got a two-year contract now, and I hope I can help raise the sport’s profile.”
Based at the UK’s only dedicated academy of bare knuckle boxing in Warrington, Dean’s preparations bear comparison to any more seasoned professional.
He said: “My opponent is a former Royal Marine Commando so I’m expecting him to be resilient. It will be good match but I’m feeling confident I’m going to win this one, and most of the fights to come, because I put 100 per cent into everything I do.
“I’m training twice a day, every day. It’s skipping to get my heart rate up, bag work to condition my wrists and fists, footwork drills, normally finishing off in the ring with a partner and some work on my core, then cold water therapy and yoga.”
He added: The most challenging thing is putting up with the pain. I’ve got lots of microtears in my muscles and my wrists hurt, but the body changes, it will get stronger and adapt.
“I’m really enjoying the focus. Since signing up for the fight, I’ve not had a drink or anything like that. I’m sticking to the plan and it’s making every other part of my life focused too.”
The mental aspect is important to Dean. He will be donating part of his fight fees to the charity Derbyshire Mind, and is encouraging supporters to make their own donations.
He said: “This first fight is in memory of my little brother, Carl. He had schizophrenia and died in 2016. I always told him I’d go professional, and he always believed in me.
“I’ve helped raise several thousands of pounds for Derbyshire Mind in the past, so I know that it does really good work. I’ve had my own mental health struggles and tried to battle everything on my own, so I hope the money will help Mind to reach out to other people and support them.”
To add to Dean’s fundraising total, go to https://bit.ly/3Hxxj6x.