There is a great sense of achievement when you walk into Leonis boxing club at South Hill Gym. Not only because clippings of the club’s victories line the walls of the gym, but because the club, its coaches and members continue to work so hard to carry the torch passed to them by the grandfather of Jersey boxing, Dave Thompson, who passed away in 2012. Forever remembered by the boxing community, Dave left some big shoes to fill at Leonis and it’s taken several committed coaches to come together to drive the club into the future, paying homage to where they have come from whilst always remembering what is at the heart of the sport they love.
It would be fair to say that the club has struggled to find its feet after the passing of Thompson, who ran the club almost single handedly and dedicated his life to helping the boxers that passed through their doors. But at the centre of Jersey’s only remaining amateur boxing club are Thompson’s originals values; welcoming anyone that wishes to try boxing and offering them the opportunity to better themselves through a love of boxing. These may seem like obvious principles for any boxing club, but with the rise of white collar events and money-spinning boxing boot camps it is easy to lose sight of what the sport has historically meant and that is the chance for troubled youngsters to learn a discipline in order to channel their aggression and commit to achieving goals as part of a team. One thing is for certain, none of the Leonis coaches are in it for the money.
“All the money we make is funnelled back into the boxers” explains Kevin Baudains who jointly took on the running of the club after thirteen years boxing and now boasts forty two coaching. “Funding trips away, bringing boxers over and putting on shows in the Island.” Club membership is deliberately kept low to ensure the sport remains accessible to any and all and with no subsidies the club are heavily dependent on the generosity of their sponsors. Alongside Kevin coaches Miguel Ferreira, Tony Burt, Gerry Spence and Ian Dunbar volunteer their time to the seniors at the club who meet four times a week. Boxers train to compete in the four shows that the club puts on each year, events that are vitally important to the club as its main source of fundraising.
Supporting the seniors’ training are Miles Carden, Tony Grimshaw, Callumn O’Connor and Ruben Legge who offer a weekly session to the twenty or so junior boxers of both sexes. “I feel a huge responsibility to those coaches past and present who have provided boxing excellence in Jersey for the past 60 years,” Miles Carden proudly reflects. “It’s an venerable Island institution.” The club is welcoming to anyone wanting to try boxing, you can walk into a session and enjoy your first stint on the bag on the house. However, to box at a competitive level requires dedication and commitment, the coaches being only too aware of the great responsibility they have to protect whilst developing their members.
Yes it’s a bunch of misfits leading the club into the future, but so far it appears to be working for them! Miguel Ferreira describes the collective as “those with so much enthusiasm they want to conquer the world tomorrow, balanced by the overly cautious and complemented by the very experienced.” Over time they’ve each picked up on elements of running the club that they enjoy and excel at whether it be offering varied training sessions, matching boxers for fights or the administration and paperwork. It’s this coaching combination that are ensuring the Jersey club challenges the visiting, more experienced teams at its shows and producing some of the top boxers in the UK.
There is no replacing Dave Thompson, but with hard work, grit and a continued love for the sport there is every indication that these coaches and the rising boxers will keep the good name of Dave going, build upon Leonis’ legacy and propel the club into the future of boxing.
Jersey Leonis train on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at South Hill Gym. The next show will take place at the Raddison Bleu on 20th May. For more details please contact me.