FORMER Stourbridge boxer and bus driver Sam Horton has told how his marriage fell apart after he was slashed in the face by a knife-wielding passenger.
The 26-year-old, from Norton, who fought Olympic gold medal winner James De Gale in one of his last bouts in the ring in 2010, was attacked with a craft knife at Merry Hill bus station a year ago by Terry Price from Cradley Heath following a row over a fake bus pass.
Price, also 26, left former super-middle weight boxer Sam with a V-shaped scar running from the left corner of his mouth to the middle of his cheek and back down to his chin following the attack which unfolded in broad daylight on March 16 2011.
Last week the attacker from Station Road was jailed for 18 months after a jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court found him guilty of wounding and possessing an offensive weapon.
But Sam, whose real name is Sam Richardson, has branded the sentence a “joke”.
Speaking exclusively to the News, he said: “What have you got to do to get a good sentence these days? It’s just a slap on the wrist. People get longer sentences for pettier crimes.
“I find it shocking but it’s out of my hands and he’s going to have to serve his time for what he’s done.”
Judge Michael Dudley said Mr Horton been aggressive during the incident which happened during a driver changeover.
But the boxer turned bus driver, who served with the Staffordshire Regiment for three years after leaving school, said the situation unfolded shortly after he’d kicked Price off the bus in Brierley Hill for brandishing a fake travel pass.
He said: “I thought I’d got punched, then I realised I’d been slashed - so I ran after him and held him down.
“It’s lucky it wasn’t one of the older drivers and that it was myself.”
He added: “I’m just glad it’s come to an end and I can move on now.”
But Sam says the aftermath of the attack put a huge strain on his marriage to sweetheart Sally, with whom he has a three-year-old daughter Charlotte, and the couple - who got engaged in Paris just a few years ago - have since separated.
He said: “She just said to me ‘for the last 12 months you’ve changed - you’re much snappier’.
“It’s made me a different person. I’m having to have counselling.
“It’s amazing how something like that can change your life completely.”
He said leaving his fighting career behind to concentrate on studying to be an operating department practitioner with the NHS had also taken its toll as boxing had been part of his life since he was ten.
But he said the attack, which left him needing 50 stitches to fix his face, had proved “the final nail in the coffin”.
He said: “I was really paranoid at first, I wouldn’t even look at it for ages and I’d wear a scarf round my face.
“But in the last two or three months I’ve started to get used to it and haven’t been growing a beard to cover it and such.”
Currently half way through a two-year course at Birmingham City University, Sam says following the attack he never again got behind the wheel of a bus.
Now busy working towards his new career in the health service, he says he feels lucky to be alive and has started getting training again at his old gym, the Lions Boxing Club in Brierley Hill, to take his mind off things.
And he hasn’t ruled out returning to the ring one day.
He said: “I’m never going to say never, a boxer never really quits.”