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David Bailey: From schoolyard punching bag to professional boxer

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When David Bailey was a secondary school student he was regularly beaten up. His constant and sustained punishment-taking eventually caught the eye of a fellow student, a national boxing champion, who urged him to take up the noble art.

Why? Because he had never seen someone take so much punishment and walk away like it was nothing.

A novice ABA title with Empire ABC in Bristol would later follow, and then a plunge into the World of professional boxing where he has racked up a 4(0)-0 record.

Bailey fights on Friday night in front of his home fans at the Dolman Exhibition Hall, and told his story ahead of the bout.

The light heavyweight’s entire family hails from Lettermore in the Connemara Gaeltacht and the 32 year old is married to a woman with similar Galway roots. Indeed Bailey explains that “I was born and bred in England – but I see myself as an Irishman due to the fact I have pure Irish blood running through my veins.”

The Irish links don’t stop there either, with Bailey having linked up with Ennis trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick since his fourth fight.

While he admits to being “starstruck” upon first joining up with the high-profile former coach of Eamonn O’Kane and George Groves, Bailey now feels that he can “see him for what he is – an outstanding coach and a good man.”

“I travel from Bristol to Swindon most days for the privilege of Paddy’s coaching.”

“In all fairness there is plenty of facilities and coaches in Bristol I could use – but after being with him for only a short time before our first fight together I was convinced he can get the best out of me.”

“How good that is is yet to be seen. But I feel with Paddy the sky’s the limit, and we’re only scratching the surface.”

While he lists James Toney as his favourite fighter, his nickname ‘The Throwback’ suggests that his ring approach is a lot different than that of the American defensive genius. The Bristolian instead describes how “I’ve an aggressive style, I come forward to have a fight.”

“When I’m under pressure, instinct tells me to fire back.”

The all-action 175lber is well-supported in his home city, with a large chunk coming from the Irish community, and a grateful Bailey notes how “without their support I wouldn’t be competing.”

“They’re behind me and I’ll do everything I can to make them and Bristol fans proud.”

“I hope to push on with big support to fight on for titles.”

On Friday Bailey faces ‘Mad’ Mitch Mitchell [6(2)-47(7)], a respected journeyman and probably the trickiest opponent of his novice career to-date. The Tribesman is anticipating an exciting clash as his opponent “likes to come forward and have a good fight.”

“He’s got plenty of experience. It should make for a good contest.”

“But I believe I’ve trained too hard under the guidance of my coach Paddy Fitzpatrick to lose.”

Due purely to his late start in the professional game, Bailey is “looking at the British title as the ultimate goal for me. Only because of my age, otherwise I’d be looking beyond that.”

“I was on the brink of retirement, only for my sponsors who stepped in and came together to make it possible for me to train in the day part-time.”

“I’ve progressed so much under Paddy that I don’t believe I can win that title, I know I can.”

It is not just the Lonsdale belt that has caught Bailey’s eye, and he says┬áthat “it would be an honour to fight for an Irish title.”

“It’s something I’d cherish and hold close to my heart.”

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: