There’s always a sense of anticipation leading up to Lily Fight Night, and this year was no different. Over 350 spectators packed into The Clapham Grand, eager to watch our fighting fundraisers, with many more tuning in to enjoy the action via our YouTube live stream. And the evening certainly lived up to expectations!
Journalist and TV presenter Adam Levanthal hosted the evening with his usual boundless energy and enthusiasm, introducing a total of 11 fights – that’s an incredible 22 boxers fighting the good fight against each other and mitochondrial disease. Between them, they’d already raised over £10,000 before even stepping into the ring, an amazing effort all round.
But before a punch was thrown, The Lily Foundation’s CEO Liz reminded everyone why they were there – to find a cure for mito, to raise awareness of the disease, and to improve the lives of those affected. After thanking everyone involved in making the event happen, she shared some staggering statistics about what the charity has achieved in the last 15 years, before showing a short film featuring the story of brave mito warrior Bal and her experience of banking her voice.
Sky Sports commentator Andy Clarke and former super middleweight world champion George Groves were ringside to talk us through the action, while legendary referee Kenny Curtis was in charge inside the ring, starting the night with some sound advice for the fighters: “As long as they give it their all they’ll enjoy it, win or lose.” Wise words indeed.
Fight 1 – Naz Siddique vs Nduka Olise
Both fighters were ready to do damage, and had that steely gaze in their eyes. After a magnificent effort from the pair, Nduka finished on the front foot, giving Naz a bloody nose before moving up the gears to seal victory.
Fight 2 – Rob Dyton vs Nathan Martinez
The second clash saw the oldest fighter of the night at 54, Rob, pitted against his close neighbour Nathan in the battle of Brixton. Both showed great fitness early on, and while Martinez gave everything he could, birthday boy Rob took control, and victory, in the third.
Fight 3 – Ian Hilling vs John Rhys Williams
A nervous Ian, fighting for his stepdaughter Kiya who has mitochondrial disease, faced John in a closely matched, action-packed contest which delivered right from the start. The pace inevitably slowed in the third and whilst Ian did Kiya proud in an epic and emotional battle, John took the victory, but was quick to pay tribute to his opponent: “He’s a tough fighter, he just kept coming back… I couldn’t knock him over!”
Fight 4 – Eszter Dombi vs Kiki Roquette
The first all-female battle of the evening gave spectators a well-matched pair, with not much to choose in the opening two rounds, so it was down to a fast and furious final 2 minutes. It may have been Kiki who was declared the winner, but Eszter had the work rate and aggression, and said she’d loved the experience.
Fight 5 – Suzi Saggar vs Mo Gray
The UK vs the USA. Lily’s godmother Suzi, aka Smooth Suz, who set the crowd alight during her ring walk, was up against Mo, The Mania from Pennsylvania. Both got down to business right from the first bell, with Suzi finishing stronger. After a magnificent battle there was no respite for Mo in the end, who was gracious in defeat: “Suzi’s an animal! That was hard, but great fun!”
Fight 6 – Ben Rogers vs Josh Bridle-O’Neal
Next up were Ben and Josh, and it was clear straightaway that they both knew what they were doing. Ben sustained a bloody nose in the first round, otherwise it was a tight opener, and after some lovely jabs during a frenetic finish, Josh took the glory in the end. “It was tough,” he admitted. “Ben did really well. Three rounds in here is an absolute killer!”
Fight 7 – Henry Taylor vs Joe Carney
After the interval it was time for the ultimate rivalry, and it proved a fight worthy of its build-up, with an impressive performance from Taylor, and Carney dazzling in his sparkly gold shorts! The pair were so closely matched that referee Kenny Curtis called a draw, prompting boos from the crowd and shouts for one more round – something never before seen at a Lily Fight Night. Cue pandemonium! What a pair of warriors, and even after the fourth and final round still Kenny couldn’t separate them. Asked if they would go again next year, the answer from both was a resounding yes. Watch this space!
Fight 8 – Nicole Jones vs Anna Whitwham
Fight eight saw a pretty evenly matched contest, despite a considerable height difference. Whilst Anna had a great reach, Nicole really went for it in the third round, but ultimately it was Anna who came out on top.
Fight 9 – Kyler Coote vs Dean Langeveldt
Two chefs caused a right stir in the next battle between Kyler, fighting in the footsteps of his father, and pride of South Africa Dean. It got very tasty very quickly, with Kyler showing great movement to stay out of Dean’s way, and plenty of heavy shots piling in from both boxers. Dean had the greater stamina and size, but Kyler proved nimble, coming out on top in the end and drawing blood and sweat, but definitely no tears, from Dean. What a sizzling clash!
Fight 10 – CJ Eseka vs Luke Kelly
In the penultimate fight, CJ stepped out against last-minute participant Luke, and it was obvious both knew their stuff when CJ’s headgear got dislodged early on. A great technical fight ensued, with so little to choose between them. What an effort they both put in, but in the final round Luke got the body shots in to clinch the win. CJ said each round felt like an hour, whilst Luke was full of praise for his courageous opponent.
Fight 11 – Andy Teece vs Dom Hodge
And last but by no means least was Andy pitting his wits against friend and colleague Dom, a heavyweight battle that had been brewing for 3 years due to the pandemic. Dom looked for a quick start but there was some lovely early work from Andy. At the end of the first round Dom hit the ropes and was saved by the bell. However, he was down again early in the second so the ref quickly called an end to proceedings. Whilst it proved a punishing night for Dom, he nonetheless said it was well worth it and he’d do it again. And victor Andy, who’d waited a long time to let it all out in the ring, paid respect to his opponent before throwing the gauntlet down for next year’s volunteers. “You’re never too old to get involved!” declared the 37-year-old in a fittingly dramatic end to another memorable Lily Fight Night.
There was an exceptional standard of fighting throughout the evening, and a huge thank you goes out to all our brave boxers for putting their bodies and beautiful faces on the line in the fight against mito.
A lot of people work incredibly hard and donate their time and expertise to make Lily Fight Night happen. We’d like to say a special thanks to:
- Barry O'Connell and team at State of Mind Fitness for coaching and ringside support
- The team at The Clapham Grand
- James Templeman for setting up our live stream
- Jason Warner at Fyrefly Studios for the photography
- Dr Matt Cherko and the paramedics at Ambulance Transfer Ltd
- Kenny Curtis for his expert refereeing (in spite of that draw!)
- Host Adam Levanthal
- Commentators Andy Clarke and George Groves
We know our fighters were calling out friends and family to get involved next year (you know who you are!), so if you were watching and found yourself wanting to get in the ring, now’s your chance! We’re already asking people to register their interest to take part next year, so if you fancy getting fit, having fun and taking a swing at mito, sign up now.