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Amateur

Save the Angel

John Ryder started at Angel ABC
Alex Davidson/Getty Images
Clubs like this need to survive and thrive but, Chris Kempson asks, what's next for Islington-based Angel ABC

THE Angel Amateur Boxing Club has been a major part of the boxing scene in Islington for over 40 years. But it faces an uncertain future as, it is understood, the club’s landlord, the City and Islington College intends to take over the club’s premises in December 2022; effectively leaving the Club homeless. The Angel ABC is situated at the former Owen’s School, in Owen’s Row, St John Street. The City and Islington College is housed in nearby Goswell Road and requires the club’s premises to further expand its educational remit in the borough of Islington. It is understood the college will not be renewing the club’s lease when it expires late next year.

The Angel ABC, part of the Islington and Finsbury Youth Club, was founded by the late John Jacobs and the late Tom Bracken in 1980. The club has enjoyed a fine pedigree over the years, producing both national junior and senior amateur boxing champions. The Gallagher cousins Patrick (Blue Boy) and Patrick (PJ) were the Angel’s national junior ABA championship trailblazers and also England representatives and to date Patrick (Blue Boy) Gallagher is the club’s only senior national ABA champion. He won the lightweight title (60kgs) in 1990 at the Royal Albert Hall, outpointing Luton’s Billy Schwer in a thriller of a final. Blue Boy reached the ABA final again in 1991, but a hand injury prevented him from defending his national crown. He later turned professional but surprisingly had limited success in the paid game.

Younger cousin PJ collected national junior ABA and NABC crowns in the blue and yellow vest of the Angel and went on to have a very successful career in the paid ranks. He became the British super-featherweight title holder.

Another prolific Angel national junior champion was Francie Pius Doherty who won six national junior crowns and remains the club’s most successful amateur junior boxer. Doherty won junior ABA, NABC and Schoolboy championships in the early 1990s.

Although since those heady days of the late 1980s and the early 1990s, the Angel’s championship record has been sparse, Islington’s John Ryder [pictured above], an Angel boxing hero through and through, remains the club’s most successful ever professional boxer.

John had a great amateur record at the Angel, winning 30 of his 35 bouts, acquiring two senior national novice championship titles and also a North West Division of the London ABA middleweight title. These were tough times with the likes of George Groves and James DeGale plying their trade on the amateur circuit at the same time.

The Angel and so many amateur boxing clubs throughout the country have all been hit very badly by the pandemic and are now trying to adjust to their changed circumstances. The club was further rocked by the death earlier this year of Steve Miller, a very loyal servant for many years at the Angel. He boxed and later coached for many years at the club as well as latterly also fulfilling a number of administrative roles. Like many clubs, following the relaxation of restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the Angel has struggled in the short term to get back to its primary task as a local amateur boxing club. Any help that local residents can offer the club will be vital now for its wellbeing and short-term future.

Clubs like the Angel need to survive and thrive and we should do our upmost to help them.

A spokesperson for Capital City College Group, of which City and Islington College is part, said, “We can confirm that the boxing club’s lease will expire in December 2022 and it is not our intention to renew it. The building forms part of the Angel site, which is currently operating at full capacity, and we need the space to enable more people to study with us. While we have sympathy with their predicament, we are under no obligation to relocate the club. We have previously offered to help them move to another site and this offer still stands, but of today we have had no contact from the club.”

It could be the last chance saloon for the Angel, so we call on all those with the interests of the club at heart to step forward now and help safeguard its future beyond December 2022.

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