Almost £30,000 was raised for charity on a night when the outgoing Stanley chairman boxed a giant American heavyweight.
Hundreds poured into the Mercure Dunkenhalgh Hotel in support of both Leonard Cheshire Disability and Ilyas Khan, who bravely scrapped the 6ft 4’ former heavyweight world champ Tim Witherspoon.
Khan, 47, who trained tirelessly for the rumble in Clayton-le-Moors, said: "It was different from my expectation and it was a lot harder than any fight I ever could have imagined.
"Up until know, whenever I had sparred with some very good boxers, no one dominated the ring like Mr Witherspoon did. It was overwhelming and a great challenge." Five years his senior, Witherspoon once dismantled Frank Bruno in 1986 and has boxed legends such as iron Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes and James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith.
But Khan - on his last night as Stanley chairman - gave as good as he got in a closely fought contest which kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.
The underdog fearlessly flew out of his red corner in full Stanley regalia, despite giving away four inches in height and an estimated six stones to his opponent.
For three rounds Khan punched like the clappers as the enormous Witherspoon attempted to fend him off.
Khan, who is the chairman of Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: "He hit me a couple of times and those punches felt like I was being shoved by an elephant.
"The power, the force, was unbelievable and they hurt when they connected with me. I was so scared but at the same time it was fun," said Khan, whose trainer and corner man was Commonwealth Games champion and super middleweight pro-boxer Kenny Anderson.
Following the hard-fought contest a tired Witherspoon was quick to pay tribute to his fleet-footed determined opponent.
He said: "Of all the guys I have fought over the last three years, you’re the best. It was a tough fight. I have done this charity thing for three years and he’s the best I’ve come up against. He threw some punches and wasn’t scared. He was accurate."
Terrible Tim added: "Oh yes there’s going to be a rematch. Next summer I will be back. I’m going to get in good shape and come back better than ever."
Before the headline fight 296 guests had enjoyed a three course dinner, Accrington Stanley’s official player and goal of the season ceremony and three professional boxing bouts involving two Accrington fighters and other contestants from around the UK.
An auction was also held at the hotel on Blackburn Road, Clayton-le-Moors, when a Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay photograph and frame was sold for £3,000, a Pele signed Brazil shirt for £1,800 and some Mike Tyson signed shorts for £1,020.
Khan, who is no longer the Stanley chairman after only recently saving them from financial meltdown, said: "It was a great evening, both for Accrington Stanley and Leonard Cheshire Disability.
"It was an enjoyable evening and one I won’t ever forget. My family was there, my wife and my friends and it was such a wonderful way to end my chairmanship."
Observer sports editor Dany Robson said: "Ilyas was very brave for stepping in to that ring with Mr Witherspoon. From my seat it was clear that he had a really good go at him despite being the smaller and less powerful man.
"I loved the build up to the fight, the feeling of the event being a real professional boxing evening, and the Rocky music that Ilyas walked into.
"Ilyas didn’t seem to stop throwing punches and must have been shattered towards the end of the fight. Well done Ilyas."
The total figure raised for Leonard Cheshire Disability - which supports over 21,000 disabled people in the UK and works in 52 countries - was £28,754.78.
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