TUCKED away in a South London gym, a young man perfects his craft. He bobs and weaves around the ring, firing off sharp combinations accompanied by short exhales of breath. Occasionally, Louie Christie slows down to study his movements in the mirror, if only momentarily to correct his form, then resumes navigating the squared-circle.
His father, Errol Christie, is a name synonymous with British boxing. A schoolboy champion, who held the NABC and ABA titles respectively – suffering only two defeats in an 80-fight amateur career. The ex-England captain fought his way into the Guinness Book of World Records, and was crowned European champion in 1983. As a professional, Errol was tipped for world honours. He sparred in the world famous Kronk Gym – Detroit, with the likes of Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns. And was deemed worthy enough by the gym’s patriarch, Emanuel Steward, to wear the coveted Kronk Gym golden shorts. From career highs of appearing on the Hearns vs. Duran undercard, to the lows of his defeat to Mark Kaylor and the erosion of form that followed, the now-52-year-old is a British boxing favourite.
Eighties’ Errol is mimicked in the fighting style of his 26-year-old son. With quick hands and slick footwork, matched with an ability to cut the ring down, Louie has studied his father’s blueprint, and now inhabits the demeanour of a pressure fighter. In appearance, he possesses much of his father’s facial characteristics – a large smile the most notable. He is of similar height, a lighter complexion; with less hair on his head, and more on his face. Christie Jnr oozes familiarity.
It is no great surprise to learn of Louie’s boxing ambition; he began his journey as an eager six-year-old under the guidance of his father.
“Dad had already retired by the time I showed interest in the sport. But he still took great pleasure in introducing me to it fully,” Louie explains.
That introduction was to Eltham & District ABC, a small-hall venue that once played host to Errol’s own coaching venture. His screams of “no retreat, no surrender!” would drown out any noise from the nearby Yorkshire Grey roundabout.
Louie reminisces on a father/son relationship forged through boxing: “I would train during the week at Eltham, and on the weekends with dad in Holborn. I always loved learning from him. He’d give me pointers, ya know, correct me, show me how to improve. He was my rock in the ring.”
It is now time for Louie to be that same rock for Errol, after he was diagnosed with cancer in February.
“When he called me up, asking to see me in person immediately, I thought I was in trouble. I sat down with him, and he told me that he had cancer. I was crushed.”
The news was a shock for Louie, whose father had been a fit and healthy man throughout his whole life.
“It’s been diagnosed as small-cell lung cancer, a suspected result of exposure to asbestos.”
Not only is it a hard notion for Louie to come to terms with, it acts as a stark reminder of the indiscriminate nature of cancer.
Determined to find a silver lining, Louie has been able to draw inspiration from his father’s fighting spirit.
“He’s doing his chemo at the moment, and still wants to go for morning runs and do press-ups. If he wants to do all of that, then I owe it to him and myself to put 100 per cent into my own training. I have no excuses.”
Yet to make his professional debut, Louie has expressed his intentions of marshalling a genuine assault on the British lightweight division.
“The Christies have unfinished business in British boxing,” the prospect declares. “I’m here to achieve everything my dad wasn’t able to. And I want my career to be seen as an extension of his.”
The Lewisham boxer is scheduled to make his debut on a Mickey Helliet promotion in September – and is pulling out all of the stops in preparation.
“I’m doing extra bits outside of the gym, simple things like using park gym apparatus in my spare time, going on extra morning and evening runs, even rock climbing! Anything that keeps me active.”
It is Errol’s intention to visit his son in training camp at Gumshield Gym, Bexley, in the coming weeks. Be it to impart some wisdom, or just offer support.
“I’m really looking forward to having him around,” says Louie. “I’m determined to hold onto as much advice as he can give me. I have a great team behind me, and I want my dad to be as much a part of my fight, as I am of his.”
The culmination of the past few months has given Louie a new perspective on life. It can be a cruel and lonely place, much like a boxing ring. It owes nothing, and nothing should be taken for granted. The two Christie’s currently find themselves entwined in different battles. But with a supportive network of close friends and family behind them, they will fight them nonetheless.
“No retreat, no surrender,” Louie beams.
Like father, like son.