NEILSON Promotions have defended the sport of unlicensed boxing following the tragic death of a whitecollar fighter in Nottingham.

Liverpool’s Lance Ferguson-Prayogg collapsed after his fight at a Nottingham whitecollar show, similar to the ones Neilson Promotions have staged since 2006, and died the next day in hospital.

Although Ferguson-Prayogg’s death is not thought to have been a direct result of his whitecollar bout, his passing has raised concern over the safety of such shows.

Neilson Promotions however maintain the safety and welfare of their fighters is “paramount” with promoter Mark Neilson claiming whitecollar boxing actually has a vital role to play in society.

“Having put on over 180 fights, we have not had any serious injuries to date,” Neilson told the Swindon Advertiser. “As we are all ex-boxers ourselves, our fighters’ safety and welfare is paramount.

“The whitecollar boxing scene has seen massive growth over the last few years and as one of the UK’s largest whitecollar boxing promoters, we actually have been setting the standards.

“We undertake the matchmaking personally and won’t make a fight unless we have seen both boxers sparring, regardless of previous experience.

“Although the safety standards are not as rigorous as in the professional game, they are relative – the pros can fight 10 or 12 three minute rounds whilst our guys are usually over three two minute rounds.”

He also revealed his shows have two paramedics ringside during all bouts and that an ambulance is stationed at the the venue.

Neilson, who is the son of former Swindon heavyweight professional Eddie, added: “We use heavier 14oz gloves (professionals use 8 or 10oz), we ask each fighter to complete a medical Q&A and each fighter undertakes a medical by a paramedic on the night.

“All weigh-ins are done on the night and I personally do all the matchmaking, all boxers are matched within 7lbs.

“We have two paramedics ringside during all bouts and an ambulance stationed at the venue. We use the UK’s most experienced whitecollar referee Spencer Alton - a former British Boxing Board of Control referee and ex-pro boxer - and we have seen all our boxers sparring prior to matching each fight. We also have specialist event insurance in place.”

Neilson also told how his shows have raised a substantial amount of money for local and national charities, adding: “We have raised nearly £50,000 for local and national charities and have undoubtedly had a positive and some times life-changing impact on some of the boxers.

“Some of the fighters have really turned their lives around after getting involved with boxing.

“Boxing has opened up in recent years with boxers from all disciplines sparring and visiting each other’s gyms, something that was unheard of 20 years ago.”

Whitecollar boxing has been prominent in Swindon since around 2006 when shows were staged in venues such as the Premier Club in Stratton in front of just a few hundred people. Now shows such as Neilson Promotions’ events attract around 2,000 people and are staged at venues such as the Oasis Leisure Centre or MECA.

Due to its popularity Neilson said he would encourage the British Boxing Board of Control to introduce a sub division of their organisation to cover whitecollar boxing events such as his.

Said Neilson: “I would like to see the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), the governing body of professional boxing in the United Kingdom, introduce an additional category for the white collar/semi-professional boxers.

“It could have minimum standards for equipment, onsite medical support and medical checks. Along with the requirement for all non-professional organisations to register and be, in effect, licensed.

“It was good to see the BBBoC general secretary, Robert Smith on Sky Sports’ Ringside boxing programme talking about how whitecollar boxing was having a positive effect as long as safety standards were maintained.”

The Adver contacted Robert Smith to suggest Neilson’s idea but the BBBoC general secretary revealed his organisation have no interest in licensing whitecollar boxing.

Smith said: “It is obviously very sad this gentleman has passed away but this event was not passed by the British Boxing Board of Control.

“We have been requested to regulate whitecollar boxing in the past and said we will not do that “To get a licence with the BBBoC is a very rigorous process and we take it seriously, though boxing is a wonderful sport it is dangerous and injuries do occur.

“We have strict and stringent licensing procedure for our boxers, if not the most stringent in the world. It is one thing to go to a gym and train for fitness but that does not make you a boxer “We have seen whitecollar boxers and based on what we have seen we recommend that they should do something else.

“I have never been to a whitecollar boxing show.

“I was on the Ringside show on Sky. I certainly said boxing training and fitness is beneficial but that is different to being a boxer.

“Do you think the board would create a category for whitecollar shows?

“No, I don’t, but it’s up to the board to decide, we have had been requested (to licence whitecollar boxing) in the past and declined and the board would consider it if asked again but we are quite happy with what we do.

“We run professional boxing in Great Britain to what we consider to a very high standard and would have no interest in licensing white collar boxing.”