Football star Julio Arca proved he can be handy with his fists as well as his feet after emerging victorious on his debut in the boxing ring.
The former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder, who now plays for South Shields, took on champion fundraiser Mark Solan at Rainton Meadows Arena, in Houghton, in a charity bout.
The night of boxing – organised by Julio’s Shields team-mate Daryll Hall – raised over £7,000 for charity, with 11 fights taking place.
Top of the bill was Julio’s bout, and after six weeks of training, he was impressive.
In three two-minute rounds, he showcased his new-found skills, battling his way to a victory on points.
For a footballer who has played at some of world football’s top arenas, it may have been expected he would have few nerves in front of a sell-out Rainton Meadows Arena.
However, the popular Argentinean says he has never felt tension like it before after walking to the ring to Dance of the Knights, which is played before every game as Sunderland walk out at the Stadium of Light.
He said: “I was feeling really good until the last half-hour before the fight.
“The nerves and adrenaline then started to hit me quite badly.
“I tried to make sure no one could see that, because I didn’t want to show it. I had to put a boxer’s face on. I’ve never felt tension like that before.
“Once I got in the ring, I got into my own bubble, but beforehand it was very nerve-wracking.”
The funds have been split between a number of charities helped by the Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust, including St Cuthbert’s Hospice, in Durham, and St Teresa’s Hospice, in Darlington, as well as Julio’s chosen charity, Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens.
Julio says that the money raised was what pleased him most from the night, although he was delighted to see his training pay off.
He is now planning to maintain aspects of the boxing training – although doesn’t intend to take part in any further bouts.
The 35-year-old added: “The main thing was that we raised a lot of money. That’s what I was most pleased about.
“I was also happy that all of the work I put in over six weeks paid off. It was good that I got the win, but I was exhausted afterwards.
“I really enjoyed the whole experience, particularly the training.
“I don’t think I’ll fight again, but there are definitely parts of the training I want to keep up, that should help me with my football as well.”