When Blackpool light-middleweight boxer Brian “the Lion” Rose was knocked spark out at Huddersfield by “Mad” Max Maxwell he knew he would have to come back fighting, if he ever wanted a career in boxing again.
He also knew his previous opponent – before his fateful clash with Maxwell – would never get that chance again.
“I effectively put that lad in a coma,” Brian, 27, of Layton, explains. “It’s hard to live with that. You get the odd boxer who’s vicious, but most are nice guys.
“I have picked up the odd knock myself, but nothing serious. But for me it’s about getting in and winning the fight and money for my family.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone. But I finished a guy’s career. It could have been me. I saw him in hospital, his pregnant girlfriend next to the bed, and I had just ended his career.”
That was October 2009, and the boxer was Jason “The Rocket” Rushton. The match ended in the 10th round on a technical knockout, halted when a boxer is in difficulty. Rushton collapsed in his dressing room. He was later put in a drug-induced coma after medics found bleeding on his brain,
Brian was one of his first visitors. “I was devastated. Nadia, his girlfriend, told me it wasn’t my fault, it was the sport. It could so easily have been me. But it wasn’t.”
Doncaster boxer Jason lost part of his sight and suffered other injuries. A benefit fund has been established for him.
The tragedy damaged Brian too. “It haunted me, hung over me. Seven months later I made my comeback. I had serious issues. As things worked out it was my worst performance.”
He was thrashed by one of the most pugnacious fighters in the business – Maxwell (pictured with Rose above).
Brian was man enough to acknowledge he needed help outside the ring. It came from current world powerlifting champion Emma James, three-times world champion, 13-times European champion, 17-times British champion.
He went on to defeat the opponent who had felled him – his only defeat as a professional – and retain his British light-middleweight title at the Winter Gardens this month.
Trainer Bobby Rimmer, former cornerman and assistant trainer for Ricky Hatton, had earlier urged him to get help, and knew just the therapist for the task. “Bobby’s the best,” Brian concedes, “and he knew Emma had helped boxers before. I had lost my confidence. But he said do me one last favour, go and see Emma. She tells it like it is. She pulls no punches.”
Brian, holder of a Lonsdale Belt admits: “My comeback was more to do with was happening in my head than physical fitness.”
Feisty Belfast-born Emma, no pushover herself, has fought her own demons, and admits the all-consuming drive to compete and excel can be both a blessing and a curse. “I’ve been power-lifting since I was 16. It’s my solace, distraction, stress relief.” For many years a sports therapist, Emma incorporates mental techniques to assist athletes back to competition. She also trains trainers, runs a successful international practice in personal therapy, weight management, optimising sports performance, and inspirational lectures. Arguably, her greatest strength is her compassion. She makes time to help others. Emma says: “I deal in other sports with a lot more income. In boxing, a lot of the stuff I do is with lads who have nothing. Other sports give you time for another career. With boxing it’s 24/7.”
Brian came with the commendation of a man Emma respected. Trainer Bobby reckoned Brian had the spark of greatness. Emma adds: “Brian presented with trauma. He had come face-to-face with the mortality, of someone else, and his own. For the sake of a couple of hours here and there I was able to help him. People have given me time over the years; I just pass it on. All credit to Brian for being able to handle Maxwell for 12 rounds. In the best possible way Maxwell is horrible. I’ve never seen anybody like that, just in your face the entire time, but Brian faced him down. And won.”
Brian’s self belief is now fighting fit. “I’m in control, I use different techniques to get in the zone. I can’t hear anyone, I can’t hear jeers, just noise. I focus. It’s brilliant. I had my best fight here.
“I want to bring big-time boxing back to Blackpool. It’s my home, with my fiancee Danielle and my little boy Oscar.
“Emma James saved my career. Without her I wouldn’t be a British champ. There’s no shame in seeking help. At the end of the day we’re only human.”