FEATURE: Glory days returing for boxing club
PUBLISHED: 10:08 26 March 2015 | UPDATED: 11:48 26 March 2015
Black and white photos of boxing legends adorn the walls in the office of the St Albans and London Colney Boxing Club. They tell the story of the club's proud history and its former standing in the sport.
The Wallace brothers, Kalvin, Lawrence and Dave, are immortalised in weathered frames delivering telling shots to their opponents. Gary Dunlop is up there, too, as are Dave Skipp, Adrian Chase, Kevin Sheppard and Gary Szydlowski. All have a story behind them – they tell a tale of a great club that nurtured champions.
“The club was very respected in those days,” said John Murphy, the club’s matchmaker. “Everyone used to question our fighters because they were strong and 100 per cent fit. That’s what we’re working on now.
“All we had was one room in an old school. We used to put the ring up at night, it wasn’t a proper ring, just ropes from wall to wall, and that’s where we turned out champions.”
Those days are long gone – over 30 years, in fact – and much has changed in the years that followed. St Albans, as a boxing city, all but fell off the map.
For tickets to St Albans and London Colney ABC’s event at Oaklands on June 6, email Kevin@trustnetworks.co.uk. All the money raised will be donated to the club and put towards a mini-bus, improving the facilities and equipment.
But there’s plenty of space left on the walls, and plenty of talent in the city, for the club’s future champions.
The current talent has a familiar name.
Sean Murphy, John’s son, is St Albans’ top export. After winning the ABA Elite Senior title in 1985 and 1986, Murphy claimed gold at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh before winning the British and Commonwealth belts at middleweight as a professional.
He is also the trainer behind London 2012 gold medallist Anthony Joshua, who, if his 10 knockouts in 10 fights are anything to go by, looks all but certain to be a future heavyweight world champion.
Liam, 15, and Finn, 12, are the latest from the Murphy clan to lace up their gloves and, unsurprisingly considering their pedigree, both won their debut bouts. Liam went as far as to stop his opponent – rare in the amateur ranks – while Finn won comfortably on points.
They’re not the only two fighters at the club impressing up and down the country on a weekly basis. St Albans and London Colney ABC has 35 fighters – up from four 18 months ago – ready for competitive contests.
John Stanley, 11, won his first two skills bouts while Anees Taj clinched gold at the Haringey Cup last year. The club has high hopes for the 19-year-old, with many believing his has the skill set to carve out a piece of history in the sport.
“The current crop is not as experienced as the guys on the walls,” explained John. “They’ll need a couple of years to get to that standard, but I believe they can get there because we have got good trainers and all of them are dedicated.
“I honestly believe the club will get back to those glory days.”
The club is gearing up to showcase its talent on June 6 at a dinner show at Oaklands College. Boxing clubs from up and down the country have been invited to the show, which is being held in memory of Jamie Hulse, a fundraiser and supporter of the club who tragically died last year.
“We are really excited about it. We’re going to try to get mostly St Albans boys on the bill fighting against kids from all over,” said John.
“It will be a tough test; they won’t be getting easy bouts. They’ll all be 50-50 which is the way it should be.”
One of the major draws of the evening will be Joshua, who has confirmed he will be at ringside. The club is also trying to get boxing legends John Conteh and Steve Collins there.
It’ll be the first chance for many to see the fighters who could one day be immortalised in black and white on the walls of the club.