Preston North End Community and Education Trust’s [PNECET] NCS Coordinator is competing in an above-knee amputee charity boxing match this weekend, in aid of two causes close to his heart.
Brad North has been disabled for most of his adult life, after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a form of bone cancer – when he was just 11-years-old. After the cancer twice returned, his full knee and kneecap were replaced with a prosthesis.
Click here to donate to Brad's fundraiser
Difficulties with the prosthesis, though, ultimately led to him making the decision to have his leg amputated four years ago to improve his quality of life.
He’s since been able to get back to playing sport, which has varied from having a fitted blade to allow him to run, and sparring in the gym, to now preparing for his first taste of competitive sporting action since just days before his initial cancer diagnosis 15 years ago.
Brad has been helped to this point thanks to the work of the Specialist Rehabilitation Mobility Centre, in Preston, with the amputation process, and the Penwortham Boxing Club with their support for him with boxing and preparing for the fight.
He is now aiming to raise £500 for each of his two chosen causes through the charity boxing match, against a fellow above-knee amputee, Mark Smith, to repay them for their support.
He said: “The specialist rehabilitation mobility centre have been there for me all the way. I started going six months before my operation, they helped me prepare for what I can expect after the amputation.
“They’ve helped with me psychological support, dressing changes, physiotherapy, prescriptions and most importantly rehabilitation. They’ve allowed me to use their gym, their physios, and they make all my prosthetics there as well – it’s an unbelievable team.
“I’d like to raise money for them to get some new facilities which can hopefully help some other people in my situation and their rehabilitation.
“I started boxing as part of my rehabilitation because it was really good for my balance, shifting over to my right side and putting weight through my leg and coming forward on my leg. I never thought I would compete or even spar for that matter.
“I went to Penwortham Boxing Club and met Paul Morris who runs the gym, had some one-to-one sessions with him, and within a few months, I was in the ring sparring.
“It’s a fantastic organisation that gives back solely to their community and I’m raising money for them to get some new facilities in the gym.”
He looked back on playing for grassroots side, Lancon JFC, as an 11-year-old, when he experienced difficulty with his mobility while playing football.
“I remember coming off, thinking, ‘Something’s not right.’ I was limping up and down the pitch and that game still sits strongly in my memory, it’s the last time I competed in sport.
“When I started boxing it was solely for my fitness and to improve my balance and it was Mark who reached out to ask whether I’d be interested in a fight for charity.
“It’s given me something to work towards; the thought of having something at the end and actually competing and there being something up for grabs. Hopefully there is a good outcome.”
The fight will take place this weekend in Sleaford, at Lincoln Fight Club, where Brad will meet his opponent Mark, from Milton Keynes, who is also fundraising for his place in the England Amputee Football Team in this year’s World Cup.
The pair will contest three two-minute-long rounds, and Brad hopes the bout can inspire other amputees or those with disabilities to not give up on being involved in competitive sport.
He added: “I know some below-knee amputees who have competed in boxing matches and above-knee amputees who do box for the same reason as me; fitness.
“I hope this is the start of something, so other above-knee amputees out there do realise there is the prospect of fighting amputees but also that there could be the potential to have that competitiveness.”
“Hopefully we can put on a good show and encourage other people to get involved in the sport, or any sport.”
Brad is using his past experiences to inspire young people through the NCS programme, which encourages young people to build their confidence, independence and life skills through a summer residential programme.
Brad and PNECET have worked with disabled young adults from Preston College and the Sir Tom Finney High School, among other sites, to deliver NCS, where Brad has been able to deliver his disability awareness workshop to inspire pupils.
You can find out more about the NCS programme and Brad’s work by emailing email@example.com.
Donate to Brad’s fundraiser by clicking here.