DAVID Barnes has never had a competitive kick boxing contest but, for the last nine years, he has been battling the biggest fight of all...and winning!
It was back in 2005 when super-fit David had his world turned upside down when a routine visit to the doctors for jabs for a trip abroad ended with him being diagnosed with a form of leukemia.
For David, it was gut-wrenching body blow, far worse than anything he had experienced in all the years of sparring and training at Fit To Fight Kick Boxing Club in Accrington.
“I trained twice a week, ate well and I rode 50 to 60 miles a week to work,” said David, now a respected kick boxing referee on the local circuit. “I considered myself fit and healthy and thought these things shouldn’t be happening to me.”
It shook David to the core, especially as he didn’t even know he was ill.
“I was going out to Sri Lanka on business so needed some jabs,” he recalls. “The nurse asked if there was anything else bothering me and I said that I occasionally got a nose bleed when I rode to work. It was put down as a weak blood vessel but they decided to do some tests while I was there.”
That was a Thursday morning. By 3pm he was called at worked and order to go home. That evening he was lying in a hospital bed at Blackburn Royal Infirmary.
“I stayed in overnight then about 7am the next morning, the head of hematology came to see me,” added David who went to Peel Park Junior School before attended Haslingden Secondary Modern.
“He closed the curtains around the bed and said he had some bad news and it was that I had a form of leukemia.
“It was devastating news. I didn’t feel ill, I didn’t look ill and all of a sudden I was told I had an illness that could kill me.”
The truth is David’s training regime is something that probably saved him and something that helps him lead a normal life as possible today.
“They said at the time that my blood count was so bad that they could not believe I was even walking let along cycling and kick boxing. It was that exercise that kept me going.”
David was rushed by ambulance to Christie’s Hospital in Manchester where he spent six days undergoing a wide range of tests. He was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia.
“It was all very surreal,” added David. “I was told it was something that affected my immune system and any bug or cold I picked up could have led to pneumonia which ultimately could have killed me.
“At the time, I was riding to work in the snow and rain!”
For many, that is where the sporting story would end and understandably so.
But not David.
He was out of action for up to eight weeks but slowly got himself off the ropes.
“My son Steven trained at the club so I asked him to get me a key and I would walk down there do a bit and build it up from there,” he said.
“It probably took me about eight to ten weeks to get back in to my old routine.”
But there was no special treatment for David when he got back in to the gym run by Billy Battrick.
“First of all, I used to go down and watch Steven train. They would come up to me and say “What’s wrong with you, you don’t look ill!” I had to say, “Believe me, I am ill.”
“But there was no pussy footing around me or wrapping me in cotton wool. Once I was back in the gym it was a case of just getting on with it.”
And get on with it he has.
David, now 64, regularly officiates at local shows and refereeing 40 bouts in one sitting is a regular occurrence.
“I love it,” said David who is a black belt fourth dan. “It’s not quite the same as training but being in the ring referee is something I really enjoy doing.”
David was a relatively late-comer to martial arts, the usual story of taking his son to a karate club then getting involved himself.
“I got involved when Steven when was five or six,” said David who was in his 40s at the time. “There were quite a few other dads taking their kids down so it meant you were sat on the side just watching so the guy said listen why don't you join in.”
David progressed to brown belt in karate before finally finding himself at Billy Battrick’s Fit to Fight Kick Boxing Club.
“Billy is a great bloke,” said David. “He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s fought, he’s trained, he’s done karate and now kick boxing. He is very passionate. Fortunately he has a son and now a daughter who want to continue in his footsteps.”
It was Billy who got David in to refereeing.
“Billy asked if I was interested in going on a referees course in Birmingham back in 2009. We went down there and they gave a few forms to fill in and gave us a talk and that was about it.
“I enjoy it. It is very good. You have to be on your toes. I’ve nearly been clocked a few times because you are in there when fists and feet are flying. But I suppose that is when the black belt fourth dan comes in handy!”
David has always been sporty, playing football for a mining team in Hapton while he also played cricket while he was working in Mexico City.
“I worked out in Mexico for 18 months and there was a big cricket community. We would hold tournaments and you would get teams coming from Belize, Honduras and California to play. We represented Mexico.”
The football was not as glamourous.
“I served my time on the Coal Board in mining engineering. I worked at Thornybank in Hapton and we played in the Burnley League. We didn’t have the greatest team but we had the best facilities “Everyone loved playing there because we had our own showers!”
Now though it is all about the kick boxing.
David still regularly trains twice a week while he is a keen cyclist – he rode the 60 miles from Manchester to Blackpool to raise funds for Christies.
For David, the illness is not a barrier, just something he has learnt to live with and deal with.
“I get bit tired from time to time,” said David who now works at Asda Supermarket. “But I still train twice a week and still go out cycling. And have taken up another martial art of Tai Chi.
“I like to go to the gym and help out and pass on my experience.
“I haven’t let the illness affect me too much.
“I just take it day to day, I am that sort of happy-go-lucky of chap.”