Cage fighters in drag who famously knocked out thugs in 2009 ‘haven’t dressed as women since’

Lily Wakefield December 23, 2019
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Cage fighters

Cage fighters James Lilley and Daniel Lerwell have not dressed in drag since 2009. (St red/ YouTube)

Two cage fighters dressed in drag famously defended themselves against an unprovoked attack, but they have now said that they ‘haven’t dressed as women’ in the decade since.

In 2009, James Lilley and Daniel Lerwell were among a group of around a dozen cage fighters who were on a night out in Swansea before starting 12 weeks of gruelling training. To add to the fun, Lilley and Lerwell decided they would go in drag.

But, later that evening, they were attacked in the street by two drunken thugs who severely underestimated them. Their attackers were left on the floor, while Lilley calmly walked back to pick up his handbag.

CCTV footage of the incident went viral, soon getting millions of views and resulting in the cage fighters being asked to do interviews and appear on TV.

A decade later, Lilley, now successful bare knuckle boxer and martial artist relived the experience. He told WalesOnline: “We went out at the time, a few of us had a show coming up in 12 weeks time and it was out last night out before we all started training again.

“I can’t remember what was said but someone came up with the idea for us to dress up as women… It got to about 10.30pm or 11pm when there was this guy coming towards us with his shirt off and blood on him.

“He came over with his friend storming towards me. Daniel then hit the two guys and they went down. I went back for my handbag!”

He said the media frenzy around the attack lasted around 12 to 18 months, but “people still talk about it even to this day”.

Lerwell is now a bare knuckle boxer and undefeated champion, who raises awareness of autism through his fights in honour of his five-year-old autistic son.

He said that he had to delete his Facebook account after the incident because he was getting so many messages and friend requests.

“At the time social media was not as big as it is now. It’s a shame because we could have used it to do something for a good cause,” he said.

“I have gone out in fancy dress since but not as a woman,” he added. “Perhaps me and James could do it again for the 10th anniversary!”

Although the men are not LGBT+ and many saw the attack as funny, violence and harassment based on appearance is an all-too-common occurrence for many queer people.

Statistics released this year showed that homophobic and transphobic hate crime has more than doubled in England and Wales in the last four years.

More: 2009, attack, drag, Swansea, Wales

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