Remembering Ron, the man who was always in your corner
- Credit: Ron Springall
It's often the people we talk about but rarely get to write about who make such an impact on our lives over the years and there is one gentleman who many men in Norwich and across Norfolk will remember with great affection.
His name is Ron Springall and he inspired generations of young boxers over the years in a way which only those who actually stepped into a ring will know. He is still secretary of the Eastern Area Ex-Boxers Association covering the region.
Thank you for your calls following my article about boxers and the Norwich Lads Club, the first club of its kind in the world when it opened in 1918.
Run by the city police to get boys off the streets and give them a purpose in what was a tough life for most, it played a leading role in many young lives and one of them was the boy Ron.
'I have recently decided to end a boxing career that spanned 72 years,' said Ron, who always stood in the shadows while others were in the spotlight.
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The former Norwich builder put his heart and soul into the sport both as a boxer and then as a coach with a number of clubs which attracted boys from across the county.
Ron left school at 14 and decided to join the Lad's Club, at first to play snooker and table tennis and football with the Minors team.
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'My friend Alfie Brooks soon got me interested in the boxing and I had my first bout at the club against Tony Tooke at the age of 15 in 1945,' he said.
Among the famous boxers at the club at the time were Clive Campling, Ken Taylor, Chris Scott, Arthur Wilson, Freddy Marrison and Tim and Roy Roper.
The manager at the time when the city was recovering from the Second World War was former police constable Jimmy Wanbon who was paid £4 a week. He ran the club for 13 years while his wife looked after the canteen.
Before joining Norwich Police Jimmy had been a member of the Canadian Mounted Police and was described as a lovely fellow. He had to leave in 1957 because of his wife's illness and was elected the first life member. He died 50 years ago.
'We were trained by people like Chucky Robinson, Sam Tooke and Walter (Nobby) Lincoln, I had a number of bouts in Norfolk and Suffolk and in July 1948 I boxed for Norfolk at Ipswich and Lowestoft against Suffolk and Essex...with two wins,' said Ron.
Those were National Service days. 'I joined the RAF and boxed for their teams, often getting weekend passes to box for the Lads Club...always a good perk.'
During the 1950s Ron packed up boxing but maintained an interest, being friendly with local hero Ginger Sadd and George Todd. Eventually he returned to the club now being run by George Campbell and Ray Pease and became a full-time coach.
He served under three well known Lads Club managers – John Holder, Dave Springett and Ronnie Brooks.
'When Ray left to start Broadside Boxing Club I ran the coaching and match-making and I had a good team with me: Trevor Asker, Horry Bye, Brian Cawdron, Dave Bell and Ian Lewis. We built up one of the strongest boxing teams in the eastern counties, winning many titles,' said Ron.
Boxers such as Steve Sadd, Steve Frost, Dave Augustin, Andy Springall, Ian Lewis, Michael Betts, Herbie Hide, Graham Everett, Martin Atkin, Gareth Edwards and so many more.
Eventually Ron moved on to coach at Broadside ABC and Diamond ABC before recently stepping down after a lifetime in the ring.
His boy Andy followed him into the ring and his first wife Doreen, who died about 30 years ago, was also a great help behind the scenes.
When he joined the Eastern Area Ex-Boxers Association in the 1970s there were about 50 members. Ron has been secretary for the last 15 years and today there are just six members left.
'When we are gone, it's finished,' he said.
But the memories will live on and a new generation of Norfolk boxers carry on a fine tradition.
Thanks Ron – a true champion.