RingSide Report

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Ringside Report Looks Back at Boxer Mark Potter (1975-2022)

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

In boxing, like in manty sports, there are plenty of clichés. It is what attracts journalists and keeps their word counts respectable when a fighter, a manager or a promoter spouts off what it is that they have no other words to describe.

One of those clichés and oft quoted ideas is that it takes two to make a fight. But history is always written by the victor, and it does not take long before the other party are forgotten and consigned to somewhere amid the reports that mean little to them. If it is a huge fight then their star shall wane, their future looks bleak, and another final cliché enters the fight reports before we forget about the loser and are focused on the future of the winner.

On the 13th of March 2000 in the Conference Centre in Wembley, London, for the British and Commonwealth Heavyweight titles, there was such a fight. Danny Williams, on his way up the rankings and very much on the ascendency took on a man who would be one side of a fight that has gone down in folklore. In the fight Danny Williams dislocated his shoulder, fought on and won with one effective hand, knocking his opponent out in the 6th round. According to Steve Bunce, legendary British boxing journalist, the story of the fight “was mad”. In the first, Williams hit the canvas, in the second, it was his rival’s turn, then in the third Williams pulled out of a hold and dislocated his shoulder – it was popped back in again in the corner at the interval between third and fourth, though his right hand, it was the right shoulder he dislocated, became less used in the fourth and fifth. In the sixth it popped out again and some described hearing William’s yelp when it did. They also said they heard his shoulder pop out too! His trainer, threatening with the towel coming in, was verbally waived off by Williams who struck his opponent with a left uppercut which sent him down, but he got up. Then he was dropped a second time by Williams, but this time he was not emerging from the floor. Williams himself dropped to the canvas in pain and was sent to hospital, emerging, according to Bunce, at 3am with his right arm, “strapped across his body, his Lonsdale belt in a bag and his reputation made for ever.” Of course, his dance partner never got the same attention…

The man on the other side of that fight, Mark Potter, 21–5, 14KOs, late last year lost his fight to stomach cancer and died at the age of 47. A heavyweight, Potter, The Great White Shark, went on to fight both in MMA and in kickboxing. Ironically, his impressive record was not what made him go viral, nor was it a clip of his fight with Williams, but he became an internet sensation when he went in the ring with Danny Wardell. Wardell, who has Downs Syndrome, had always wanted to box and so Potter went in and gave him his shot. It is a heart-warming video where Potter got his wish to “make one lad smile.” Typically, when the tsunami of opinion came his way, he counted himself “so humbled by people’s responses and appreciation.”

His career had begun in 1997, on the 19th of July in the Wembley Arena, with quite a tough start – his debut was in the ring with the son of the legend that was Joe Bugner. He won that fight on points over six rounds that fight and rose to win the Southern Area heavyweight title in 2000, when he beat Danny Watts by stopping him in the sixth round. That was the 13th of March at York Hall – seven months before facing Williams in Wembley.

Following that fight, Potter continued fighting and faced Alexander Vasilev on the 28th of July 2001, again in the Wembley Conference Centre for the West African Boxing Union – West, heavyweight title. Potter was down three times in the seventh round before being stopped.

His final fight was against another British fighter of his era when he tried to win the Southern Area belt against Michal Sprott, in what was also a British title eliminator, on the 18th of March in 2003. it ended with Potter being stopped in the 3rd round. It was only the 3rd time he had been stopped in his career, but it was clearly the one which mattered the most as he never went back into a professional boxing ring.

His legacy as a fighter who gave a tremendous amount to the sport is assured not just for being one of the two in an iconic contest, nor in making himself the stooge in a stunt to make a young man happy but in his entire sporting career. When he was given 18 months to live, in March 2021, and diagnosed with stomach cancer he went into the gym, documented his fight, fundraised to support himself and fought harder than ever. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread, and he had little chance of making the full recovery many wished he could.

And I leave it to Hall of Fame promoter, Frank Warren who wrote warmly when he heard that Mark potter had lost his fight, “Mark was a great fighter and an even bigger character who was involved in many entertaining fights over the years and was a hugely popular face around the fight scene, particularly in the London area.”

“Mark fought some great fights during his career and was as brave as they come, but sadly he succumbed to one opponent that abides by and respects no rules at all.”

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