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Norwich's Kickstop Gym and the sweet smell of success

PUBLISHED: 08:41 09 September 2017 | UPDATED: 08:41 09 September 2017

End of an era. Picture: Sonya Duncan

End of an era. Picture: Sonya Duncan

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

It wasn't as emotional for me as it would have been for the men who inhabit it every day of the week, but as I left the Kickstop Gym this week there was a tinge of sadness at the possibility that I will never set foot inside the place again.

The famous big fight poster wall at the Kickstop Gym. Picture: Chris LakeyThe famous big fight poster wall at the Kickstop Gym. Picture: Chris Lakey

The Norwich gym has been trainer Graham Everett’s second home for more than two decades, the place where he honed the skills of fighters like Herbie Hide, Jon Thaxton, Sam Sexton, the Walsh brothers. I remember watching local legends like Earl Ling and Danny Smith train there. I went to see Jackson Williams fight Amir Khan having been prepared up at the Kickstop (him, not me).

I chatted (briefly, he’s a big, mean man) to Dereck Chisora about cars and Manchester United.

The place was often a subject of discussion with Gordon Holmes, Les King, Ronnie Brooks – all, sadly, no longer with us.

More recently it’s been Nathan Dale (more of him in a bit), Craig Poxton, Billy Bird (the only man I know who can don an Ipswich Town shirt in front of Graham and get away with it) and Zaiphan Morris.

Brothers Liam, centre, and Ryan Walsh at the Kickstop Gym, with Graham Everett. Picture: Nick ButcherBrothers Liam, centre, and Ryan Walsh at the Kickstop Gym, with Graham Everett. Picture: Nick Butcher

I once described it as my favourite place in Norfolk: certainly when it comes to work it has no equal.

Was there a bit of a downside? For a spoiled sports writer maybe: it wasn’t the most salubrious of sporting locations.

I’ve been in some dodgy places, sporting and non-sporting, but the smell of the Kickstop on a busy, hot summer’s day could sometimes take the breath away. I’m not a southern softie, but on the other hand I am not a boxer. Just a boxing fan.

There’s a loo at the Kickstop but no shower. Inside, the mesmerising array of spiders’ webs that hung from the rafters were a sight to behold, second only to the array of fight night posters on one of the walls.

Bag Row at the Kickstop Gym. Picture: Sonya DuncanBag Row at the Kickstop Gym. Picture: Sonya Duncan

It’s not dirty. It’s just well-used.

But there’s the crux. The boxers didn’t give a monkey’s chuff about that. It was their place of work and they loved it. Let’s face it, if you hit someone for a living then the lack of a changing room or a power-shower isn’t going to bother you.

Today, the pro boxers under Everett’s tutelage will be working from the Hewett Academy in Norwich, having joined forces with the Norwich Lads Club. Not much changes for Everett – he will still train the pros and anyone else who wants to box. He will help those who come in from local clubs for that little bit of extra help and advice.

The posters will remain on the wall at the Kickstop. The bags, the ring in the corner. It all stays. This is a new beginning, new facilities.

The squared circle at the Kickstop. Picture: Sonya DuncanThe squared circle at the Kickstop. Picture: Sonya Duncan

The boxers will get used to it: they don’t ask for much. I’ve been inside dressing rooms on shows around the country: it’s all fairly spartan. The home of boxing is York Hall and it’s as basic, but brilliant, as you can get.

An example of how boxers view this materialistic professional life came from Nathan Dale as we chatted this week. We were talking about his young son and how he took him to Norwich City’s Colney training centre this week. Nathan’s eyes rolled upwards and he let out a gasp – the best way to describe what he had seen. To say he was impressed is an understatement.

Yet Nathan loves the Kickstop and he will love the new gym with or without wall to wall luxury.

The reason is that boxers give an awful lot but they don’t really ask for much. Unless you’re Floyd Mayweather and the only thing that matters is money and life’s luxuries.

Liam Walsh on the pads at the Kickstop in his amateur days. Picture: ArchantLiam Walsh on the pads at the Kickstop in his amateur days. Picture: Archant

Otherwise, in the real world, they are happy with their lot. The only glitter they like comes off the belts they strive to put around their waists.

So goodbye to the Kickstop and hello to the Hewett. I can’t wait.

Have a word, Motty

New star Iain Martell. Picture: Chris LakeyNew star Iain Martell. Picture: Chris Lakey

John Motson’s decision to end his association with the BBC after half a century of football commentating did leave one question unanswered: what is he going to do now?

Motty’s perhaps not been at his best in the last year or two, but is still streets ahead of many others.

I should have turned the volume down on ITV’s commentary of England’s match against Slovakia on Monday evening – Clive Tyldesley informed us that England were, globally, the best supported country in World Cup qualifying. Second, he said, barely able to disguise his incredulity, DR Congo. The condescension dripped from his mouth.

His sidekick on the night was Glenn Hoddle who, thought England’s equaliser, by Eric Dier, was a tad lucky, given it came from a poor corner by Marcus Rashford. This despite the fact it was clear the Rashford’s low ball to the near post was absolutely perfectly planned for Dier – he later revealed they’d worked on it in training.

Jon Thaxton at the Kickstop. Picture: Nick ButcherJon Thaxton at the Kickstop. Picture: Nick Butcher

Your fault, Davy

I’m no sure how many others ways you can say this to jockey Davy Russell other than: “You punched a horse.”

Russell did indeed strike a defenceless animal – Kings Jolly – before a race and, having inexplicably been only warned about his conduct by the Irish Turf Club, he was then given a four-day ban as, under pressure, they had second thoughts.

Sudbury boxer, Billy Bird. Picture: Nick ButcherSudbury boxer, Billy Bird. Picture: Nick Butcher

Now, though, poor Davy’s feelings have been hurt by the “unacceptable” and “disgraceful” media coverage, with his family made to suffer because of the press intrusion into their lives.

That his family have suffered is shocking, but is anyone surprised? That’s what happens, sadly. Why? “You punched a horse.”

Russell said there was no anger involved in the incident, but, again, Davy: “You punched a horse.”

He said: “It’s a situation that has been taken to a level that has aggrieved both me and my family, by both the public and the media.”

A floored Craig Poxton and trainer Matt Smith at the Kickstop. Picture: Chris LakeyA floored Craig Poxton and trainer Matt Smith at the Kickstop. Picture: Chris Lakey

Again, Davy: “You punched a horse.”

Ryan Walsh looks relaxed at the Kickstop. 
Picture: Antony KellyRyan Walsh looks relaxed at the Kickstop. Picture: Antony Kelly

Heavyweights Sam Sexton, left, and Dereck Chisora. Picture: ArchantHeavyweights Sam Sexton, left, and Dereck Chisora. Picture: Archant

Nathan Dale - very much 'back in the day'. Picture: ArchantNathan Dale - very much 'back in the day'. Picture: Archant

Liam Walsh in front of the poster wall. Picture: Sonya DuncanLiam Walsh in front of the poster wall. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Boxing expert Steve Lillis at the Kickstop Gym - he knows more than most about boxing. Picture: Nick Butcher.Boxing expert Steve Lillis at the Kickstop Gym - he knows more than most about boxing. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Sam Sexton with Graham Everett, left, and amateur coach Pete Dobson. Picture: ArchantSam Sexton with Graham Everett, left, and amateur coach Pete Dobson. Picture: Archant

Sam Sexton working with Graham Everett - this week! Picture: Sonya DuncanSam Sexton working with Graham Everett - this week! Picture: Sonya Duncan

Herbie Hide with trainers Mike McCallum, centre, and Eddie Mustapha. Picture: ArchantHerbie Hide with trainers Mike McCallum, centre, and Eddie Mustapha. Picture: Archant

Former two-time world heavyweight champion Herbie Hide. Picture: ArchantFormer two-time world heavyweight champion Herbie Hide. Picture: Archant

Cross-border rivalry - Ipswich fan Billy Bird, and a pair of Canaries,  Graham Everett, right, and Jon Thaxton. Picture: ArchantCross-border rivalry - Ipswich fan Billy Bird, and a pair of Canaries, Graham Everett, right, and Jon Thaxton. Picture: Archant

Zaiphan Morris, left, and Scott Moises. Picture: Chris LakeyZaiphan Morris, left, and Scott Moises. Picture: Chris Lakey

Jon Thaxton, in his fighting days, sparring with Junior Witter. Picture: ArchantJon Thaxton, in his fighting days, sparring with Junior Witter. Picture: Archant

Jackson Williams preparing for his fight with Amir Khan. Picture: ArchantJackson Williams preparing for his fight with Amir Khan. Picture: Archant

Former European light-heavyweight champion Danny McIntosh. Picture: ArchantFormer European light-heavyweight champion Danny McIntosh. Picture: Archant

Michael Walsh. Picture: ArchantMichael Walsh. Picture: Archant

Lowestoft's Danny 'Boy' Smith, right, with trainer Graham Everett in 2004. Picture: ArchantLowestoft's Danny 'Boy' Smith, right, with trainer Graham Everett in 2004. Picture: Archant

Jon Thaxton, centre, lending his support to a Norwich boxing promotion. From left, Danny Smith, Earl Ling, Jackson Williams and Steve Russell. Picture: ArchantJon Thaxton, centre, lending his support to a Norwich boxing promotion. From left, Danny Smith, Earl Ling, Jackson Williams and Steve Russell. Picture: Archant

Don't look now - from left, Danny Smith, Jon Thaxton and Earl Ling. Picture: ArchantDon't look now - from left, Danny Smith, Jon Thaxton and Earl Ling. Picture: Archant

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