The death of Brendan Ingle - farewell to one of the world's most charismatic boxing trainers
If you look at Kid Galahad's social media site, you'll see a profile picture you wouldn't normally associate with the sometimes brutal world of boxing.
It shows the fighter leaning over a seated, older man and planting a big kiss on the top of his head.That wasn't any old man though, that was Brendan Ingle.The man who pioneered boxing in Sheffield and took it to levels few people would have thought possible.Today, the world of boxing bows its head to a truly great man, after he died at the age of 77.He passed away peacefully at 7.40am at the Royal Hallamshire hospital today, after suffering a brain haemorrhagem according to one of his stable, Johnny Nelson.He was the man behind the rise of Nelson, Herol 'Bomber' Graham, Naseem Hamed, Nelson, Ryan Rhodes, Glyn Rhodes, Brian Anderson, Esham Pickering, Junior Witter, 'Jon Buster' Keeton, Kell Brook, Galahad and a whole host of others who tasted fame and fortune, thanks to his unorthodox teachings.Ingle's training mantra was based on the sweet science of guiding his boxers to hit, rather than to be hit.Movement and unconventional tactics were ingrained into his followers.The aim was far from simple: Find a way to win, but with that certain, charismatic Ingle style.The technical side of his work was supported by a strong sense of loyalty, decency, equality and commitment to a peaceful, thriving community.It's not just a folklore story that he took kids off the street, taught them self-discipline and escorted them on litter-removal forays around his famed Wincobank gym.Actually, it was his life, his sense of meaning. His reality. Dublin-born Ingle had suffered a tirade of anti-Irish abuse when he arrived in the 1950s from Ireland to seek work in Sheffield, throwing himself into shifts at steel factories in the east end.The mistreatment and the tough workload was wearing, but not defeating.The boxing enthusiast, who found love with his Sheffield bride-to-be Alma, took it all on the chin.Brendan, with a twinkle in his eye, worked hard and bantered his way into a position where it was impossible forbigots to get the better of him.He had seemingly kissed the Blarney Stone - you couldn't keep up with his chatty eloquence and warm personality.In Sheffield, Brendan soon became a colourful character, and was asked by a vicar to run community events.St Thomas' boys and girls club in Newman Road became the centre of his new empire, later to become the gym which churned out champion after champion.If you were a politician, a mover and a shaker in Sheffield, it became fashionable to seek Brendan's view and support. Socially, he'd become influential - something he'd modestly find hard to believe or accept.Ironically, Brendan had not been a brilliant boxer himself.He made his professional debut in 1965 against another rookie, Dick Griffiths at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester,winning on points.He campaigned until 1973, retiring with a Won 19 Lost 14 record.Hardly the stuff of legends.But it wasn't what Brendan did, it's what he knew and was able to communicate, that made him an icon of British sport.His training methods started to attract national attention and more importantly, belts for his boxers and the gym.
He was a pioneer of the squared circle.Of all his champions, Brendan always cherished Johnny Nelson as his finest.That was because Nelson lost his first three fights in 1986, needed the most work, had a sometimes-fragilepersonality, but overcame all the odds to become a world champion.Nelson's fifth round demolition of Carl Thompson in 1999 to land the World Boxing Organisation world cruiserweight title was a tribute not only to Nelson's perseverance, but Ingle's very special handling.Brendan was a lifelong friend of The Star newspaper and many of its staff.When Bomber Graham won a title, he would make sure the first job the following day would be to take the boxer to The Star's Sports Desk, then in York Street, to thank the journalists for their support.Once when I was having difficulty getting through ringside security guards to interview one of his fighters, he raced over to the 'bouncer' and said: "You have to let this man in - boxing needs all the help it can get!"
He made you feel ten feet tall.
And you don't get anything remotely like that in today's sanitised, micro-managed boxing promotions.I fondly remember, also, the first day he brought a nervous-looking Kell Brook to our office. He was about 14."See this kid here, he doesn't half get on my wick" said Brendan, pretending to cuff Brook around the head."I've been wrong before, and I'll be wrong again. But mark my words, this fella will be the champion of the world."At the time, I thought it was a return of the Blarney stone.But Brook was just one of the fighters that responded to the hours, days, months and years of care and patience shown by Brendan, and taken on by his son Dominic as the older man started to take a back seat.Before Brook, though, was the unfathomable talent that was 'Prince' Naseem Hamed.He will be the fighter that most people will associate with Ingle.History shows that Hamed ruled the world like no other boxer, under Ingle tutlage and guardianship.History also shows that once 'Naz' ended his links with Ingle, sparking many acrimonious remarks between the pair, the writing was on the wall for the puncher's career.Now Brendan has left us, boxing and Sheffield as a community, are the poorer.People's thoughts, ofcourse, should be with his big and adoring family and intimate circle of friends.
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Including Kid Galahad, who regarded him as a second Dad.For the rest of us: I'd just say thank you, Brendan..Thanks for a million memories. You were a gentleman