Droitwich Boxing Club: Boxing at Grass Roots Level
By Simon Graham
Droitwich Amateur Boxing Club was founded in 1977 by full-time Social Worker and boxing enthusiast Chris Andrews. Those early years saw him take the sport to the community of the Spa town of Droitwich situated in rural Worcestershire by way of ‘after school clubs’, eventually he landed a small room at the back of what was the old derelict Spa Brine baths.
It was a dirty, disgusting place where us youngsters would shoo away the many pigeons that took shelter there before training would take place.
The early 80s saw the club move into a pre-fabricated building on the side of the Droitwich canal however very quickly the elements began to eat away at the structure and pretty soon we were training amongst buckets filled with rain water coming in through the weather ravaged flat roof, for almost 30 years that building under the guidance of Chris Andrews finely honed and educated many of the towns youth that would pass through its doors over the coming decades.
To many of the hardened faithful that regularly trained and fought for Droitwich ABC Mr Andrews now in his 80’s was more than the boxing coach, he was a mentor a father figure and friend, beset with personal tragedies his focus was always and still is the boxing club and the welfare of those taking part.
I have some great memories of my time as young amateur boxer, the car that Mr Andrews would take us to boxing tournaments in, Pat Bradley’s steel toe capped boots that could be heard a mile a way from the club as he skipped, and then there was our stint as actors on the TV programme Soldier, Soldier that was very popular during the early 90s, the episode ‘Fighting Spirit’.
The club has now moved into a purpose-built Boxing Academy, after problems concerning the HMRC and possible closure the club is surviving under the new tutelage of Jeff Adams and my close friend Jayson Doyle, Jayson and I travelled the length and breadth of the country together representing the towns boxing club, however and I’m sure he wont mind me mentioning this, during our early 20’s we soon discovered that there was more outside of the boxing ring that could entertain us, our motivation and drive to become World Champions soon subsided.
Since hanging up my gloves I’ve done alright for myself I can look back and honestly say a part of the man I am today can be attributed to the guidance from Mr Andrews and my years in the boxing club, in my heart I know I could have given him more in return so offer my support whenever I can.
Jayson however went that extra mile; I was intrigued to find out how he copes as a full-time Roofing Contractor, a family man, coach to his very talented boxer son and mentor to a new generation of Spa Boxers alongside his sparring partner Jeff Adams.
********************* Interview *****************************
Q: So guys how did you get into the coaching aspect of boxing.
Jeff – After my Amateur boxing days I really wanted to give something back so when I moved into the area (Droitwich) I came to the club to keep fit and then slowly found myself getting more involved helping Chris.
Jayson – Yeah, it was the same for me too, I really missed being around boxing, I also initially came down to keep fit, I could see that the club needed help as there were lots of kids here, Chris wasn’t getting any younger the club needed structure so I got involved, it was mainly to help Chris.
Q: did you have to go on any special courses or did becoming a coach just progress naturally
Jayson – Yes, we had to go and get qualified to coach, you can’t take the boxers into the ring or take them to championships without the necessary qualifications, we both have our levels 1 and 2 which was funded by the club.
Q: So does the boxing club get funding to then subsidise paying for you to get qualified, I know the FA (Football Association) filter money down to grassroots level football.
No, all the money that comes into the club comes via member subscriptions, we have one sponsor to help keep the boxing club running …… Me !! there is a huge gap between the professional set up and amateurs, we have to do all our own fundraising to keep the club afloat and get the lads to their bouts.
The three of us went on to discuss in great length the development of the young boxers and what it means to have a boxing gym within our communities. Coach Jeff who works as a teachers assistant with autistic children outlined how boxing helps kids control aggressive natures by installing discipline but also encourages the quiet ones to become more assertive in daily life, what spiked my interest is the latest initiative “swop knives for boxing gloves” which can only be a good thing …
Boxing is clearly an elitist sport you have to be super talented to make it up the ranks and get backing by the big promoters out there, but I cannot help wondering why more cannot be done to help all the thousands of dedicated boxing coaches around the country who give up 100s of hours per year to help not only the handful of elite up and coming superstars but also those kids that are in need of guidance and self-awareness.
Coming away from our interview and catch up, its clear to me that Jayson feels the way I do, had we been more dedicated and spent less time chasing girls and night clubbing we could have achieved greater heights within the sport.
This small town that we reside in had some fantastic talent Chris & Martin Duffy, Pat Bradley, Gary Sheehan, Alan Gandy, Neil Raxter to name a select few from my era, all of whom were National or District Champions, hand on heart I can say I’m amazed that the club didn’t produce a world champion perhaps that is about to change.
Just about to embark on a career in the Army (RLC) multi-national champion, England representative and possible Olympic contender Joe Doyle, is making all the right noises and getting attention from respected quarters of the UK boxing scene, he’s one to watch out for so remember the name Joe Doyle, my mates son !!!!!!