Former Sunderland AFC star Julio Arca visited a hospice which will benefit from a charity boxing match he is set to take part in today.
The 35-year-old, who now plays in the Northern League for South Shields, met a number of patients at St Cuthbert’s Hospice, in Park House Road, Durham.
He was joined by Mark Solan, who he is set to box in aid of a number of charities at a show at Rainton Meadows Arena, in Houghton-le-Spring, on May 7.
Also present was boxing promoter Daryll Hall, who is a team-mate of Arca at South Shields and has also organised the boxing event, which will also feature nine other bouts.
The hospice is one of a number of good causes helped by The Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust, which the money is being raised for.
Arca, who played for Sunderland between 2000 and 2006 before later moving to Middlesbrough, said: “It was lovely to visit the hospice and meet the people there.
It was lovely to visit the hospice and meet the people there.Julio Arca
“I was able to sit with some of the patients and talk about lots of different things, from my playing days at Sunderland, Middlesbrough and now South Shields to the boxing match.
“It was really good to see where the money is going to go.
“It’s certainly a big challenge for me, and the training so far has been difficult, but I’m enjoying it.
“I need to get the basics right and learn how to fight.
“It’s a bit like when you first learn how to play football, how to pass the ball and things like that.
“I’ve still got quite a bit to go, but I’m really excited about it and hopefully we’ll be able to raise a lot of money.”
Mr Solan, whose trust has raised tens of thousands of pounds since being set up last May, is looking forward to boxing his ‘hero’.
He said: “It’s an amazing way to raise money for the trust.
“I’m a Sunderland fan, and Julio is one of my heroes.
“We’ll both want to win, but we’re not going to go all-out to hurt each other. You don’t train to lose, though.
“There are some other great fights on the bill as well.
“The response so far has been incredible, and it’s exciting.”
Mr Hall, who is training Arca, added: “The training is going well. Julio is picking things up quite quickly.
“He has said that he wouldn’t mind continuing to box after this fight.
“He’s on target. This is his second week of training, and he has nine weeks to go.
“Coming to the hospice was a boost to us all, and it opened my eyes a lot. I’ve never met so many nice people in one room.”
St Cuthbert’s Hospice provides free palliative care, end-of-life care and bereavement support to people with life-limiting illnesses and their families.
A proportion of the hospice’s running costs are met by the NHS through local commissioning groups, but a further £1.3million must be raised each year, mostly through local events and fundraising activities.
Jade McArdle, community and events fundraiser at St Cuthbert’s Hospice, said: “It was wonderful to welcome Julio, Mark and Daryll into the hospice.
“There are a number of football and boxing fans here at present, so it was a real treat.
“We would like to thank them for taking the time to visit us and also for choosing to support us at the charity boxing night in May.
“Mark has been a regular visitor to the hospice in recent months and has delivered a large collection of gifts, chocolates and other treats for our patients and guests.
“We are so grateful to have the support of the Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust.”
Tickets for the event – doors will open at 6.30pm – are expected to go on sale next week, priced at £30 for seats on a table of 10 with waiter service, and £25 for standard standing tickets.
For more information, including on tickets, visit ‘Daryll Hall Promotions’ on Facebook at www.facebook.com/boxingnights
Donations can also be made at crowdfunding.justgiving.com/Team-Solan-1
Among the other causes which will benefit is St Teresa’s Hospice, in Darlington.