IT is a special place. They do train hard at Birtley. The work is serious. In a wide hall, with rings set up at either end, boxers move round one another. They fire out complex combinations, using their gloves as pads for quick technical work. The coach Graeme Rutherford barks out directions. To the untrained, these instructions are hard even to follow, yet the boxers respond quickly, their hands, the footwork all moving fast.
Eventually the boxing session finishes but they go straight into strength and conditioning. After what would appear to be more than enough work for one day, they move on to the football pitch alongside the club. They run round the paddock, Rutherford has them sprinting in bursts before slowing to a jog, varying the pace for lap after lap.
This is just a sample of what the Birtley boxers go through. The club has undoubtedly got results. On the British Olympic team in Sheffield, Birtley has three boxers at 63kgs alone, two at welterweight, as well as Mark Dickinson at 75kgs and more. However, there’s not only the dramatic success at the top end of British boxing, Rutherford has had champions from Schools level all the way through Junior to the Elites.