Veteran Islington Boxing Club coach John ‘JR’ Richards reflects on an amazing 32 years – and counting

PUBLISHED: 19:54 28 August 2017

John 'JR' Richards at Islington Boxing Club. Picture: Polly Hancock

John 'JR' Richards at Islington Boxing Club. Picture: Polly Hancock


Islington Boxing Club is a community within a community. It’s made by people like long-serving John “JR” Richards.

John 'JR' Richards at Islington Boxing Club. Picture: Polly Hancock John 'JR' Richards at Islington Boxing Club. Picture: Polly Hancock

When JR joined the coaching staff, he had zero experience of training and mentoring boxers.

But he clearly got the hang of it quickly. Thirty-two years on, he is a vital – and hugely popular – figure at the club in Hazellville Road, Hornsey Rise.

JR’s opportunity came in 1985 when he used to take his son, Jay, to the club.

“Jerry Mitchell was one of the coaches,” JR tells the Gazette. “He’s still here now – he’s been around even longer than me! He asked me to join because he knew my love of boxing.

“All we would talk about is boxing, so he asked: ‘Why don’t you get involved?’

“I had no experience of coaching, none at all. It was an apprenticeship, and really enjoyable. I learnt from experience.”

JR, of Archway, is a BT engineer by trade. But his coaching has taken him all over the world, accompanying numerous competitive boxers across Europe and as far as South Africa.

“I will train anybody,” he says, “whether they are a senior or amateur. Come to me and I will show you certain things, just like Jerry does.

“I coach at the gym two or three times a week. I really like the camaraderie, and I try and put a boxing shift in myself as well.”

"I had no experience of coaching, none at all. It was an apprenticeship, and really enjoyable. I learnt from experience"

John ‘JR’ Richards

Islington Boxing Club was founded in King’s Cross in 1974, moving to Hornsey Rise in 1981.

JR, who also sits on the management committee, adds: “In terms of the club – the building and its ethos – it hasn’t changed at all. But the boxers are different from 30 years ago.

“When I first joined, the amateur boxers were more inclined to train in their own time, as well as the gym. I think that will has gone a little bit, apart from with elite boxers.

“Years ago, all the amateurs ever wanted to do was boxing. Now it isn’t the be all and end all – people like to do their own thing. But that’s down to a change in society as well.”

Asked if he ever thought he would be coaching for so long, JR – who along wth Jerry was presented with a Keystone award for his long service two years ago – laughs: “No, not at all! It shows how this club grows on you.

“I’m just glad that it’s there to pass on my knowledge.”

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