Boxing: Local clubs enjoy ABA/Elite success over time
- Credit: PA
Local amateur boxing clubs in London have had their share of success in the ABA Senior/Elite Championships over the past 70 years or so.
Looking at clubs, past and present, in membership of the North-East and North-West Division of the London ABA and starting at light-flyweight, we have had the following champions.
In 1974 we had Charlie Magri, from the defunct Stepney club Arbour Youth, who was followed by Repton’s Terry Barker in 1980 and Zimbabwean-born Ian Napa in 1980 from the long-gone Crown & Manor.
Repton’s Harvey Horn was crowned in 2014, with the division only first appearing on the ABA calendar in 1971.
The flyweight division saw Mickey Pye crowned in 1962, from the old and now defunct Tottenham furniture making club Harris Lebus, with Repton’s Roy Hilton following in 1973.
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Then there was the era of Magri (Arbour Youth) from 1975-1977 inclusive, Repton’s Gary Nickels in 1978 and another Repton boxer, Charlie Edwards, in 2014.
Turning now to bantamweight, which was been uncontested since 2014 due to changes to the Championship structure, we had Mickey Carter in 1967 for Repton and 1968 for Fisher, with Repton’s Stephen Oates winning in 1997.
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In 2014, West Ham’s Lucien Reid (formerly of Repton), carried off the championship honours.
Featherweight is a weight division dominated by Repton boxers, with Johnny Cheshire winning in 1968, Moss O’Brien in 1978 and latterly Martin Ward in 2010.
St Pancras boxer Herman Henry took the national spoils in 1982.
The lightweight division saw an Angel ABC triumph in 1990 as Patrick Gallagher won a great final on points against Billy Schwer from Luton Irish.
The Angel man reached the final a year later too, but damaged his hand a few days before fight night and the title passed by walkover to Midlander Paul Ramsay.
St Pancras man Jim McDonnell won in 1982, with Repton’s St Lucian-born Sylvester Mittee in 1976 and Repton’s Kelvin Wing in 1996 also crowned.
Light-welterweight honours first went to Repton’s John H Stracey in 1969, followed by St Pancras man Dave Dent in 1983, Repton’s Danny Happe in 1999 and Haringey’s Michael Grant in 2005.
Welterweight first saw Mickey Hughes win for St Pancras in 1984, followed by Darren Dyer for the sadly now defunct St Monica’s Club in Hoxton in 1986.
Repton’s Tony Cesay won in 1999 and the Angel might just claim a portion of Francie Doherty’s success for Kingsthorpe Boys Club in 2000.
Doherty, from a travelling family, was a prolific national junior champion in the Angel vest and later moved up to Northamptonshire where he gained his senior ABA crown.
Now we move up to light-middleweight, which has not been contested since 2013 due to structural changes to the Championships.
Rod Douglas of the former St George’s Club in Stepney won a hat-trick of titles in 1983-1985, while Repton’s Tim Taylor won in 1990 and then successfully defended his title in 1991.
Repton’s Dave Orwell won the middleweight title in 1974 and 1975 and Douglas, now with Broad Street, claimed the crown in 1987, followed by the Crown & Manor’s Jason Matthews in 1995.
The light-heavyweight title has had an interesting history of local winners, with John Beckles from the old Fairbairn House Club (where I was a member) in 1987 followd by Repton’s Courtney Fry in 1998 (having won the ABA crown in 1996 with Islington).
Peter Haymer won for St Pancras in 2000 and in 2004 the title was won by Murtala Abdulsalam, who triumphed for the then St Pancras Kronk Club.
In winning in 1987, Beckles outscored Repton’s Harry Lawson, who a year later won the ABA crown having moved to Dundee in Scotland and having joined the St Francis Club in that city. Harry is the elder brother of Paul, himself a dual ABA heavyweight champion with Repton.
Our lone cruiserweight crown goes to James Branch Jnr of Repton in 2017, it first having been contested in 1998. His father James Branch Snr was a prolific nine-time junior national champion at Repton, but he did not win a Senior ABA crown as such.
In the heavyweight division, Adrian Elliott won for the old Fairbairn House Club in 1981, while Repton’s Paul Lawson won in 1991 and 1993. A certain Frank Bruno had ruled the roost in 1980 for the old St Philip Game Club in Croydon.
Lastly we come to the super-heavyweight category, first boxed for in 1982, and Adrian Elliott of the old Fairbairn House was our first champion in the inaugural year, followed by Repton’s Audley Harrison in 1997 and 1998.
St Pancras man John McDermott won it in 2000 and Repton’s Joe Young landed the prize in 2004.
Repton, known affectionately if not by everyone in amateur boxing as “The Home of Champions”, came out clearly as having our most male Senior/Elite ABA champions and sincere congratulations go to them.
They have set hight standards for many, many years now and continue to do so; although Islington Boxing Club continues to press them hard on our local scene.
Competition is always good, helping to raise standards and improve sporting experiences for the fans of the sport and we will continue to keep a watchful eye on our local clubs progress with much interest.
To local clubs who have been unable to produce or have a champion as such, don’t give up, your time could still come. Keep trying as there is a very fine line between success and failure; it could be yours one day!
Before we leave our glorious champions there is just a little time to reflect upon what some of them went on to do while continuing to wear their vest and sometimes later on the professional code too.
Again in weight order we see that Magri won British and European flyweight crowns and also briefly held the WBC and lineal flyweight world title, while boxing at the 1976 Olympics.
Napa won British and European bantamweight titles and boxed unsuccessfully for a world belt, while Cheshire was an Olympian in 1968 and Mittee an Olympian in 1976 and Commonwealth (British Empire) welterweight champion.
McDonnell won the European featherweight crown but was unsuccessful in two world title attempts, while Stracey won British and European welterweight titles and was also WBC, The Ring and lineal world welterweight champion.
Stracey was also an Olympian in 1968 losing to the eventual gold medallist from the USA, Ronnie Harris.
Dyer won a Commonwealth gold medal in Edinburgh in 1986, while Odwell was an Olympian in 1976.
Douglas won a Commonwealth gold medal and reached the quarter-finals at the 1984 Olympics, losing to Canada’s eventual silver medalist Shawn O’Sullivan, and Matthews won the WBO world and Commonwealth middleweight titles.
Fry was a Commonwealth Games gold medalist and Olympian in 2000, while Lawson went to the 1992 Barcelona Olympcis.
Harrison won a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and also won a Commonwealth Games gold medal, while in the paid ranks he won the lightly regarded WBF world heavyweight title and later on the vacant European championship.
There were also some other famous boxers from our local clubs and although Repton’s Darren Barker and Maurice Hope did not win an ABA senior crown, they distinguished themselves in both the amateur and professional codes.
Barker was Commonwealth Games champion in 2002, won British, Commonwealth and European championships and also became IBF world middleweight title holder.
Antiguan-born Hope was a GB Olympian in 1972 and went on to become British, Commonwealth (British Empire) and European light-middleweight champion, before becoming the WBC world light- middleweight champion. Not bad ring credentials for some of our local club boxers who did not win a Senior ABA crown.
Terry Marsh was a fine national junior champion with the old St George’s Club in Stepney, then won three Senior ABA crowns representing the Royal Navy.
In the professional ranks he won British and European light-welterweight titles, before winning the IBF world light-welterweight crown and retiring undefeated from the paid ring with a record of 26 wins and one draw.
It is a feat only matched more recently by that great Welsh warrior and long-time super-middleweight world champion Joe Calzaghe, who also retired from the ring undefeated as a professional with a terrific record of 46-0.
*Given that details of the various male National champions from Islington Boxing Club have appeared in other pieces, I have not repeated their considerable successes in the amateur ring in this feature.
There is no discourtesy intended by their omission from this article, or should I have missed out anyone who should have been afforded mention here.