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Chris Bourke Aiming to Show Ash Lane He Is New and Improved at Bantamweight

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Chris Bourke is aiming to make up for lost time when he boxes Ash Lane for the vacant British bantamweight title on Friday.

A former member of Team GB, Bourke (13-1, 8 KOs) turned over as a super bantamweight and tore through the first part of his professional career, displaying rare power for a 122-pounder and stopping his first four opponents. He claimed the Southern Area title in just his eighth fight and earned a shot at the British title in his 11th.

But against Marc Leach, in March 2022, things didn’t go to plan. Bourke suffered a broken nose and broken hand in a nightmare third round. Leach is a difficult fighter to get hold of at the best of times, and the clever Salfordian southpaw boxed his way to a deserved decision victory.

Lots of fighters use a defeat to apportion blame and forensically examine their training regime and team, for reasons or excuses – valid or not – as to why they underperformed. 

Bourke simply decided that although the injuries he suffered hadn’t helped his cause during his fight with Leach, a little more discipline and a bit more hard work would help him reap real rewards.

When he made his return to action almost a full year later, he did so as a bantamweight. Now, the 29-year-old from Streatham is ready to introduce the 118-pound division to Chris Bourke, Version 2.0. 

“That Leach fight,” Bourke told 32Red, “I’d had four or five championship fights in a row and I’d started to realize that I might be making the weight too easily and that I could do bantam. It was just the culmination of having the championship fights and realizing that I had a bit of room to drop another class.

“I was talking to my team about this. I almost wish I had done bantam sooner. There are a lot more opportunities, and I might be at a different stage of my career. You never know until you’ve done it, though, and I was having success at super bantam. I was knocking people out. I still feel like I’m one of the best super bantamweights out there. That setback I had, I used it as an opportunity to try doing bantam, and it’s worked out.”

Bourke hasn’t made the move half-heartedly. He has boxed three times since, and although the contests have been non-title six- and eight-rounders, he has tested the waters properly and hasn’t weighed more than 121 pounds. He believes that he will be a real force at championship weight.

“It’s been against three good boys, too,” he said. “The first boy had been in the world championships as an amateur, and he came to win, as did the second lad. The third guy came to win, too, and all three of those fights were under the super bantam limit, too. I’m not fading as the rounds go, either – I’m getting stronger.

“Ultimately it just feels like I’m still a super bantamweight; I’m just fighting in the weight division below. I’m a lot bigger and stronger in this division than I was at super bantam. I still feel like I have that power, too. That’s going to be a problem for these bantamweights.”

Lane (17-10-2, 10 KOs) has had an unusual but successful career. The 33-year-old may have 10 defeats on his record, but he is a former Midlands Area bantamweight champion who stepped up to 122 pounds to win the Commonwealth title. Last June, he dropped back down to 118 pounds and won the English title, dropping then-unbeaten Jordan Puckiss three times and forcing him to retire after seven rounds. Lane may be 13 years into his career, but he will give everything he has to complete the set of domestic titles.

Bourke has his own plans, but they all stem from winning the British title Friday night. 

“Physically, it’s been much better,” Bourke said. “I had a few injuries going into the fight with Leach. I don’t have that this time, so I don’t have that worry. I’ve had a really good, solid camp. I feel good at bantamweight and I’ve had lots of sparring. Sometimes I can struggle getting sparring, but for this camp I’ve managed to get some good rounds in.”

“I’ve done the 12 rounds now. I know exactly how it feels and I was forcing the pace, too. I know it’s not going to be a problem.

“It was a bad day against Leach, and I’m looking forward to rectifying that and pushing on in my career. That’s why I’ve been asking for this British title for so long.”

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