Where has all the time gone?
It is 50 years since our local vicar, Reverend Herrington, asked me if I could do something for the young people of Wincobank.
I put on a weekly Friday night dance in the church hall. At the end of the evening, when the lads were fighting outside, I dragged them back in and made them put on the boxing gloves.
If they were going to fight, they might as well learn how to do it properly.
When Herol Graham won the British light-middleweight title in 1981, there hadn’t been a professional boxing show in Sheffield since 1948. London controlled the boxing scene. They laughed when we said we would produce champions. Against all the odds, we have produced 16 British champions, eight European champions, three Commonwealth champions and three world champions. I’ve always maintained an open-door policy. I hope the thousands of people, many of them troubled, who have been through the gym, have been a little better for the experience.
As an Irish immigrant, I started the boxing club with nothing. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for all the help. People of Sheffield, we couldn’t have done it without you. The odds were firmly stacked against us from the start. But you bought tickets to our shows, even during the toughest economic times when the steelworks were closing.
A big thank-you, too, to the Sheffield steel men for their in-kind and financial support over the years.
The journalists on the Star and Telegraph have been invaluable. They have covered the 50-year journey and have never failed to help when I have asked.
The Radio Sheffield Saturday afternoon boxing slot kept everyone informed of the boxers’ progress. It taught them valuable social skills before media training was coined as a phrase.
My final thanks go to David Blunkett, Richard Caborn, Roger Barton and Peter Price.
Nothing happens without the political support. They have been with me every step of the way.
I don’t know where the time has gone, but I do know it was all worthwhile. Up and down, but a marvellous journey.