IN these difficult days, it is welcome to see some good news. The Ashton Albion boxing club has had a tortuous 15 month search for a new premises. That has finally been resolved. The club has found a new property, in a nearby Mossley and, with a new name, it will survive.

There has been a false dawn along the way. After being forced out of the gym where the club had been based for 25 years, a landlord offered a premises that, despite head coach’s Wayne Heywood’s best efforts, could not be made serviceable for a boxing club.

But a gym in a converted mill in Mossley became available and Heywood, with kind support from donations, could save the club. “I had to make the move. I’ve moved to another town, it’s only three miles up the road. Decided to change the name with it being in Mossley. Funnily enough, when I started boxing I lived in Mossley for about seven years, I started boxing in 1978 for a club called Mossley Boys,” he said. Now Mossley amateur boxing club has come into being and Heywood has come a full circle.

“They’ve not had a club up there since 1986 so I’ve sort of took one back now. It’s created a bit of a buzz in the town and I’m getting a lot of enquiries and it’s looking promising,” he continued.

Some of the boxers from Ashton have followed him to join the club there, some were already local and new members as well as are coming in too. “It’s given me the buzz back. It’s exciting times,” Wayne said. “As well as being the coach and the founder of the club, they don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, what other issues you’re going through to try to keep it going. Because I’m virtually a one man band. It’s been a nightmare to be honest. But it’s good [now]. I can’t wait to get back to the gym. It’s one of them, I’ve got my buzz back.”

“I’ve sacrificed all my life to amateur boxing, I was contemplating walking away,” he added. “But people kept saying, you’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to keep going… It’s hard work but we’ve got there now and I’m relieved to be honest.”

They are having to adapt of course to the coronavirus. “We’re doing it in stages. We’ve got it mapped out where kids can stand and where they can go and what they can do,” Heywood said. “I open four nights a week now, where it used to be three. So I’m doing Monday to Thursday now to cope with it.”

“You can see the potential of the kids there and the excitement of them being in the gym. It’s brilliant. It’s good again,” Heywood notes. “If it had disappeared people would realise all it’s done over the years. You don’t turn everybody’s life around, do you? But 75 or 80 percent.”

In recent weeks we’ve reported on Nemesis having to close, Emeralds’ hunt for a new gym. Many clubs will be facing similar problems. England Boxing do have an on going KO Covid campaign, in which amateur clubs across the country have set up their own fundraising pages so donors can give directly to them. Support, publicity, and maybe even lending some time, can really help a local club. The story of Mossley ABC is a sign that it does make a difference.


Boxing mourns the loss of young coach Sam Bezzina

THE boxing community is mourning the death of Sam Bezzina. A successful amateur boxer with Newham and West Ham, Bezzina was also the head coach at the charity Fight For Peace. He was a Games Maker at the London 2012 Olympics, very well liked in the sport and just 26 years old. It is a terrible loss for all those who knew him.

“We’re devastated following the news of the tragic passing of our much loved head boxing coach, Sam Bezzina. We’ve lost an exceptional coach, mentor, brother and friend,” Fight for Peace wrote. “This is a very difficult moment for everyone who knew and loved Sam and we ask any young people who need to talk at this time to reach out to us here via DM. We are here to support.

“Sam led our team of boxing coaches over the past two years at our London Academy with great charisma and humility. He played a key role in the development of many of our members, both as boxers and young people, created an extremely popular junior boxing session and helped produce a London regional and UK national champion in his first year with us.

“His fun loving and caring nature and his great technical skill and coaching prowess will be deeply missed by all of us at Fight for Peace.

“All of our thoughts and prayers are with Sam’s family, friends and loved ones at this desperately sad time.”

Mick Driscoll trained him at West Ham. He said, “I was his coach and in his corner for years when I was at West Ham. He was a talented and clever boxer who had some great success at schools, junior and youth level.”

“He quickly realised he could use his talents to great effect as a coach,” Mick continued. “He made great progress and the fact he was a head coach at such a young age showed the ability he had and the respect he commanded.

“It’s very sad and it will be a big loss not just to the boxers he coached and the clubs he served, but the London boxing scene and England Boxing as a whole as he was destined to go on to even greater things.”