THERE seems to have been more happening outside the ring than inside over the recent weeks and some of it very sad. Since I live near Dundee the tragic death of Mike Towell has been felt strongly. A terrible tragedy for his family and as he lived locally it was also a big blow to the boxing fraternity in Tayside. Also this week an update said that Spanish boxer Saul Tejada was reported to be still in a coma after being stopped in nine rounds in a Spanish title fight on 7 October and Monday past marked a year since Prichard Colon fell into a coma after his fight with Terrell Williams. Yes boxing is a very dangerous sport and Towell’s tragic death brought out a spate of demands that boxing should be banned that seemed more muted than on previous occasions hopefully because of the steps the sport has taken over the years to improve safety standards. However those demands to ban boxing as dangerous fail to give the sport any credit for the part it plays in society.
Recently I was off the net for a week as I flew over to Lafayette, Louisiana to visit with a long-time close friend Beau Williford. Beau, a former pro heavyweight who worked with many fighters such as Dennis Andries, Glenn McCrory, Deirdre Gogarty, Chad Broussard, Jason Papillion and Kenny Vice etc. has a gym in Lafayette. The gym plays an important part in the local youth support effort. It caters to people of all ages and genders and teaches them how to box. Fighters from Beau’s gym have won a hatful of titles at local, Regional and National levels. But that was not what impressed me most. Beau insists that any school age kids who want to train there must maintain a minimum of B or C in their schoolwork grades and at least a B in behaviour, so it is not just about finding some boxing talent but also about the whole person. Teaching them about working hard to achieve your goals, discipline, finding an out let for aggression, social responsibility and so much more. He has a team supporting him who share his goals in former pro boxer Anthony Russell from Canada and Female Hall of Fame boxer Gogarty. Whilst I was there a father and mother brought their son to enrol in the gym. The father had trained there a while ago and wanted his son to also benefit from the experience just as he had and Beau gets plenty of returnees and referrals which is the best sign that what he does works. Deirdre Gogarty has to be one of the nicest people I have met. Apart from winning a world title she has acted as an inspiration to other female boxers such as Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor, and her fight with Christy Martin on the undercard to Mike Tyson vs. Frank Bruno outdid that fight for excitement and was credited with giving female boxing a huge boost. Deirdre may have retired but the love of boxing is still there and it is a family affair as she brings along her lovely, lively young son Celtan who has a playpen in the gym and plays happily with his toys as mum hits the heavy bag. Now there’s a thought – a crèche in every gym.
Before I went to Lafayette I called in at the Dundee Amateur Boxing club and there again were youngsters of all ages and gender working hard under the supervision of trainer Greg Menzies being set goals and learning that hard work and discipline is the way to achieve them. These are just two examples but from Mexico to Manchester from Ghana to Glasgow from Manila to Soweto all over the world there are thousands of gyms playing their part in using boxing to benefit the youth of their country and we can feel proud for the contribution it makes to bettering and building so many young lives.