A DOUBLE injury blow has put Gary Fox out of his Northern Area title showdown with Neil Hepper.
And the Fishburn Fox has reacted angrily to goading from Hepper fans on the internet that his fitness concerns were invented to avoid the 10-round match up at the Stadium of Light on July 15.
“It’s stupid of anyone to believe that I’m scared to fight him,” Fox told SportMail.
“Why would I look to pull out of a bout when I would be the Northern Area champion on July 15.
“Some people have gone on their computers saying I’m frightened of him, not that they have put their names to the comments.
“I have beaten him once, I know how to beat him and I’ll do it again.
“But I can’t fight if I’m injured.”
Fox’s training had been affected by a broken finger but he was still prepared to soldier on - planning on keeping fit while waiting for his hand to heal.
However, when he suffered a knee injury the 26-year-old and coach Neil Fannan decided they had no choice but to withdraw.
“I have never pulled out of a contest in my life,” he said.
“There have been loads of times when I should have, but I am a fighter and I’ve just got on with it.
“Even when I broke my finger I was just going to carry on.
“The plan was to keep my fitness going but obviously not use my hand while it recovered.
“But when my knee went that was it.
“I’ve had three ops on my right knee and have no cartilage in it.
“If you can’t punch and can’t move then you can’t fight.
“I’ve never backed out in my life but this is a 10-round championship contest, not a four rounder.
“I’ll fight Hepper and I hope it can go on September time or thereabouts.
“I’m fuming that some people are saying I’ve bottled it.
“There is no way I’d be pulling out of a fight I know I’d win.”
Despite the loss of Fox v Hepper, the Sunday spectacular still features two championship confrontations.
Martin Ward’s challenge for the English bantamweight title against Liverpool’s Mike Robinson tops the bill as the Fannan and Dave Garside boxer chases his first silverware.
Chief support act Peter Cope is also in a 10-rounder, facing Redcar tough guy Gavin Reid for the International Masters super-bantamweight crown.
Cope spearheads a Hartlepool triple bill which features the town’s greatest boxer and the newest pro.
Michael Hunter has the second bout in his comeback, the former British, Commonwealth and European champion having beaten Sid Razak at the Borough Hall in February.
Callum Winton, who has joined Cope at the Gus Robinson Developments camp, will make his pro debut at Sunderland’s football ground.