Inside Sheffield's fight factory: an insight into the Ingle boxing gym
Almost a decade ago, Amer Khan quit professional boxing at the relatively young age of 25 after a promising career which saw him record 13 straight wins and land a light heavyweight title.
But Khan never quite kicked the habit of going to the Ingle gym, where he’d been training since he was 13. Today, he gives a Q&A insight into the culture and traditions of the talent factory at Wincobank, and gives his views on Kell Brook, Kid Galahad and the next crop of title-hunters.
Your earliest memories?
I’ve been with Brendan for 23 years and was there when Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson, Ryan Rhodes, Junior Witter, Esham Pickering, Buster Keeton, Neville Brown, Clifton Mitchell were there, to name a few. The gym was buzzing as we watched Brendan on the pads with Naz, it was just mesmerising.
Brendan gave me (then a skinny 13 year old) the same training time as Naz and that was the beauty of Brendan; he was overly generous with his time to all the kids - even more than the professionals. He also got me back into school after I was ‘kindly’ asked to leave on a few occasions.
He taught me to be a better person which he also use to say will also make you a better boxer.
Brendan has done a tremendous amount for us in the gym and the community and boxing globally, I don’t think anyone is a patch on him. He’s 76, is still very active and is in the gym daily and a very instrumental part of what goes on.
And your decision to retire?
After 13 fights and picking up the area title I sparred with James Degale (IBF world super middleweight champion) and afterwards I had pains in my shoulder. An MRI scan revealed I needed surgery on a labral shoulder tear. I underwent two operations; the whole process took 18 months.
As a kid I’d visited Elm Lane fire station on a school visit and remember thinking this is what I’m going to do after I finish boxing.
I used the time while I was injured to study and research the fire service after several attempts I was successful with Derbyshire fire service. It was the next best thing to boxing and the transition from prize fighter to firefighter was brilliant. Working with some fantastic people and keeping the community safe is very rewarding.
The shift pattern as a fire fighter gives me the time for the gym.
I was disappointed that I didn’t fulfil my ambition to win a major title as a boxer but knew I had to have a backup plan and a career in the fire service was better long term and decided to focus on that.
It has been well documented that boxers suffer from depression when they finish boxing, I believe after you finish you need to use the skills you have learnt and utilise them like Johnny Nelson. He used his world title to get the best job in the world as a Sky Sports presenter. I believe there are many other opportunities.
Tell me about your training of the next crop of Ingle youngsters?
Brendan and Carl Luckock, the gym manger, asked me if I could help out with the amateurs as I still train there and keep myself fit.
I now coach the amateurs alongside Junior Witter, we have a couple of good lads coming through: Issac Burgin, Jay Bunclark, Jerome Blake and Basit Khan for example.
As a coach, I’m lucky as I’m getting mentored by Brendan and watching Dominic with Kell Brook and Barry Awad (Kid Galahad.)
Within the city I also think Dalton Smith ticks all the boxes and hope he stays amateur and qualifies for the Olympics, before turning pro.
Your views on Kell Brook’s defeat by Gennady Golovkin?
Dominic Ingle (trainer) showed absolute class when pulling Kell out against Golovkin, saving him against further damage.
Looking back if he didn’t get injured it could have been different as Kell was wining on the scorecards. I don’t believe the lost to GGG has had any detrimental effect on Kell’s career, if anything it puts him further on the map as one of the world’s best boxers currently around and he is even more determined to be the best.
I remember looking at GGG after walking back to the changing rooms and, if there was a speech bubble on the top of his head, it would have said: “Thank God that is over.”
Will Brook v Khan ever be made?
I really hope the Amir Khan fight happens as there’s only room for one AK and I’m the real “Amer Khan!”
Joking aside, let’s give the British public what they want to see. So Amir: ‘Stop ducking Kell.’
It’s all down to Amir...as Kell will box anyone. If that fight doesn’t happen then Kell will have to fight his mandatory however I’ve got a sneaky feeling it will happen though as there’s big money involved for both boxers.
And the other professionals at Wincobank?
2017 will be a big year for our pros: Atif Shafiq, Leigh Wood, Kyle Yousaf, Jordan Gill all spring to mind.
Kid Galahad is dynamite. He’s had three fights since his return and signed up with Frank Warren who, historically, we have a good relationship with. I just can’t see anyone beating him for me he’s a dead cert world champ. The world champions will avoid him like the plague.
If you could have a New Year wish for the gym and its boxers, what would it be?
Be fit be ready take your chances! There’s going to be a lot of opportunities in 2017, God willing.