Adam Harper Retires

Double Champion Hangs Up Gloves

It is with great sadness that we can confirm Midlands Area and English Champion, Adam Harper, has retired from professional boxing.
Mike Lockley, from the Birmingham Mail, takes up the story.
The career of Adam Harper is over – tragically, at the very point when the big fights and big paydays were within grasp.
The former English and Midlands light-middleweight champ has hung-up his gloves after failing a mandatory brain scan.
The articulate 30-year-old could’ve contested the medical findings, but has wisely heeded the warning.
The scan revealed damage had been done.
Harper, a qualified teacher, is too sensible to play Russian roulette with his health. The Birmingham-based contender, part of Errol Johnson’s BCB stable, told me: “The risks are far too great. In 20 years time, I want to be able to remember my career.
“I was heartbroken, but now I’ve made the announcement I feel content.”
In Harper, the region has lost one of its most accomplished, exciting and brave performers. It has also lost one of the game’s true mavericks: a man determined to do things his way.
The Tewkesbury athlete plans to remain in the game and will still be seen inside the ring – as a referee.
The university graduate entered the pro ranks with a business plan of how much he intended to earn, refused mark-time engagements against journeymen and positively hounded promoters for the title fights he craved.
“I’m a prize-fighter, not a pride fighter,” he insisted.
Harper’s work ethic in the gym has become the stuff of fight folklore. That fitness allowed a boxer not blessed with “lights out” power to apply relentless pressure. His chin seemed fortified by concrete.
Harper’s achievements in a 10 fight career that spanned four years are remarkable. He and tough Birmingham trainer Malcolm Melvin charted a short-cut to glory.
In his eighth contest, Harper arrived on the championship scene by outpointing fellow unbeaten prospect Ryan Kelly in an epic of such magnitude it over-shadowed the main event on a televised, world class card.
Every fighter has an opponent they will forever be linked with – for Ali it was Frazier, Sugar Ray Robinson had Jake LaMotta, in more recent times there was the Benn-Eubank feud.
Any discussion about Harper’s career will begin and end with that breathtaking night two years ago when he beat Kelly and visa versa. Whether the pair like it or not, they are bonded by blood and bruises.
To a degree, their rivalry continued after the title fight, but a mutual respect was forged during those 10 savage rounds: something both parties were loathed to admit.
Yesterday, however, Kelly said: “I wish him all the best for the future. We had a great battle over 10 rounds which entertained a lot of fans.”
Harper’s ambition drove him to an audacious bid to take the Commonwealth crown in Melbourne. He traveled alone, was told shortly after arriving in Oz that his intended opponent had been replaced by world class Michael Zerafa, but still contested every minute of every round.Harper showed courage above and beyond the call of duty that night, taking heavy shots and dismissing his corner’s plea to throw in the towel.
In hindsight, that punishing battle probably played a significant part in the scan result that has cruelly terminated Harper’s career. The brave British battler was treated for concussion after the bout.
“That is terrible news,” Zerafa, clearly shaken by this week’s retirement, told me. “It was a absolute pleasure sharing the ring with him. Please send him my strength and regards.”
Adam bounced back by taking the English title with comprehensive points victory over Billy Bird in Brentwood, Essex. That victory, last September, opened the door for engagements against the best Britain had to offer.We were all blissfully unaware Bird would be Harper’s last opponent.
He’d signed to meet Scottish sensation Kieran Smith, unbeaten in 14, north of the border, but that contest was scuppered by the devastating medical result.
Harper, at least, has bowed out at the top of his game.Trainer Melvin said: “Adam Harper was a very, very underrated boxer. People talked about his fitness, but you don’t achieve what he did without skill. He had a good defence, a decent jab and a very good boxing brain – you’d give him instructions and he’d follow them perfectly.
“He won the English, Midlands and fought for the Commonwealth – that shows his pedigree. He took one great shot against Kelly and nothing of significance against Bird. That doesn’t happen on fitness alone.
“I believe he would’ve more than held his own at British title level. He had all the attributes.”
Melvin added: “Adam was an absolute dream to train. I could’ve told him to run 10 miles, then swim 50 lengths and he’d do it, no questions asked. You’d be pushed to find a harder working fighter than Adam Harper. He followed everything to a T. When he was dieting, he wouldn’t even have a chewing gum.”
Boxing writers forge friendships in the game and I forged a friendship with Harper, a man, like myself, who enjoys nothing better than discussing and analysing forthcoming contests.
His knowledge of the modern game is beyond encyclopedic. His on-line colour commentary for Black Country Boxing promotions were articulate and incisive. Outside the ring, he conducted himself with class and dignity. When my son opened a new boxing gym, he insisted on attending, gave a speech that positively enthralled those present and took children on the pads – despite nursing a shoulder injury.
He refused any payment for that day’s work.Such is the measure of the man.
Harper was a thoroughly dedicated pro free from the borish delusions of grandeur harboured by many prospects. It has been a pleasure chronicling his career.And if he’s reading this: keep the phone calls coming, Adam.

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