New Islington Boxing Club coach is confident about the future
12:00 24 November 2016
Although he’s been part of the set-up for just a few months, Tony Lucas reckons Islington BC can blossom into one of the country’s top clubs.
Lucas spent five years as a coach at nearby Times ABC, but decided to make the move to Hazellville Road following the controversial split in London amateur boxing at the start of the season.
With Times opting to break away from England Boxing and join the new Amateur Boxing Alliance instead, Lucas jumped at an opportunity to stay with the established governing body.
After three months of coaching the junior boxers at Islington – which he combines with his day job as a driver for engineering company J Murphy & Sons – Lucas has been greatly impressed by the club’s potential.
“There are some really good prospects here, some good boys – some of them came with me from Times and the future looks bright for them,” Lucas told the Gazette.
“That’s why I chose to stay with England Boxing, because I think Islington can offer them the chance to box regularly in competitions that’ll be good for them.
“For a good prospect who’s coming along, you want him to be in England Boxing. It’s all very well being an established club but it’s about sustaining that, keeping the boys busy and having good connections with other clubs.
“Islington really want to put themselves out there and be, if not the best in the country, one of the best and match the big clubs in every department. To be part of that can only be good for a coach who’s still learning.”
Lucas found his way into boxing through an indirect route – he initially took up a form of kung fu called wing shun, but then began training with the former Commonwealth super-featherweight boxing champion Mark Reefer.
After agreeing to help Reefer run a boxing gym in Finsbury Park, he completed an ABA coaching course and moved to Times.
During his time at the York Way club, Lucas worked with several up- and-coming young boxers – notably the Chelli brothers, Yahia and Zak, who both won national championships.
“The Chelli brothers are both very good boys,” said Lucas. “Zak’s turned pro and, as soon as his debut comes along, I’ll be cheering him on. I’m sure he’ll make a success of it, he works very hard.
“Times is a great club – they always made me really welcome. There are good coaches there like Dave Ryan MBE, a really good man who’s been around the club for 40 years or so and served the community so well.
“But when Times moved to the Alliance, staying with England Boxing was the right thing for me.
“I’ve got to know [ex-chairman] Lenny and [manager] Reggie Hagland at Islington over a number of years and I never believed we were rivals. I always thought we were very good neighbours and I hope we can remain so.”
For now, Lucas is enjoying the fresh challenges presented by his new role at Islington and has found himself inspired by the general buzz around the gym.
“It’s such a busy club, there are always good numbers in and it’s certainly not just male boxers – there are female boxers here who are really good,” he added.
“That’s great for the sport and it encourages other girls to join because they don’t feel intimidated – they can see that it’s open to all ages and all levels.
“If they put the work in, we’ll put the work in – that’s the way it works in boxing. I’m still learning and developing as a coach and I’m enjoying it.”