Fundraising goes on for Brendan Ingle statue a year since legendary Sheffield trainer's death

The drive continues to collect money for a memorial to the late boxing trainer Brendan Ingle in Sheffield – as the coach’s family and former world champion Johnny Nelson prepare to take part in a fundraiser this weekend.

Thursday, 20th June 2019, 1:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th June 2019, 4:34 pm
How the Brendan Ingle memorial, designed by Gordon Young, could look.
How the Brendan Ingle memorial, designed by Gordon Young, could look.

Saturday’s run in Concord Park is part of ongoing efforts to raise £100,000 to construct a memorial to commemorate Brendan’s work in Sheffield.

The Dublin-born boxing coach inspired countless youngsters who passed through his gym in Wincobank.

Brendan, who died in May 2018 aged 77 from a brain haemorrhage, helped steer Johnny, Naseem Hamed, Kell Brook and Junior Witter to world titles.

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So far though, fundraising efforts have fallen short and much more money is needed for the statue.

Artist Gordon Young produced a design including a bronze sculpture of Brendan and a ‘square ring’ – similar to a boxing ring – with inscriptions of Brendan’s favourite sayings and the names of sponsors.

A cast iron plaque, also designed by Gordon, has been made by Durham Foundry in Sheffield but a site for its installation has yet to be confirmed.

Johnny said: “I think if people knew how to donate the money we needed, it wouldn’t be a problem – but I think people need a simple way. We hope the run will raise some awareness.”

Family and friends hoped the memorial would be erected last month in time for the anniversary of Brendan's death. However, a a lack of money and planning wrangles have delayed progress.

In November last year, Brendan’s daughters Bridget and Tara set up a women's running group that now has more than 100 members.

On Saturday, as many of the group as possible are taking part in the regular Concord Parkrun, in Shiregreen, to mark Brendan’s birthday – June 19 – and to commemorate a year since his passing.

Bridget and Tara have also established a bi-weekly litter picking group. Brendan famously made all of his boxers, from novice amateurs to professional world champions, patrol the streets around the gym picking up rubbish.

Bridget said: “The Brendan Ingle Foundation is run by a few volunteers. Our resources have concentrated on continuing Brendan’s work.

“This includes working with socially marginalised groups, keeping young adults, often those at risk of exclusion, in education and boxing training, starting the women's running group, which has been a huge success, and litter picking.

"Brendan would have been delighted that women who thought they would never be able to run are now running distances anywhere between 5k and a half marathon. This is why we are celebrating Brendan’s life by doing the Concord Parkrun together.”

The trainer turned Johnny Nelson from an amateur who lost ten of his 13 fights into the longest-reigning cruiserweight world champion in history, a record which he still holds.

He said: “I think it would be criminal not to build a statue for Brendan. He did so much for people in Sheffield and not just for people who are into boxing, but for community in Sheffield and putting Sheffield on the map.

“Before a brick was laid at the English Institute of Sport he was involved in these conversations about making Sheffield a centre of sport, which it is now with the likes of Anthony Joshua here.”

Johnny also credits Brendan with being a champion of multiculturalism. Boxers at the gym were asked to sing the children's nursery rhyme ‘I Can Sing a Rainbow’ while going through their shadow boxing exercises.

“When he spoke about the colours of the rainbow, and made us sing that song, he was talking about all the colours in the gym,” says Johnny . The lyrics of the song will appear on the planned memorial statue.

“Our gym was like the Benetton flag. Every creed, colour and religion was in that gym. Only Brendan could have controlled and had something like that. On his doorstep there were gangs and arguments but they all stopped at the door. Multiculturalism is a big deal now but our gym was multicultural 40 years ago.”

Richard Caborn, the former sport minister who has pushed for a statue, is also attending Saturday’s run.”

He said Brendan was a legend in his own lifetime and added: “I want to be part of the celebration of Brenda’s life, making sure that there's a memorial to Brendan for all the good work he did for many many people in Sheffield.

“Brendan was an inspirational character and he had an ability to communicate with young people – and young people who were really at the bottom of the economic ladder, who really needed help.”

Brendan’s son Dominic keeps the gym running and saw his fighter Kid Galahad mount a commendable but ultimately unsuccessful world title challenge last weekend. He lost a close points decision to Josh Warrington in Leeds.