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Islington Boxing Club, from origins at Kings Cross to Hazellville Road home

PUBLISHED: 16:00 02 April 2020

An early photo of the club when they were based at York Way Community Centre and known as Kings Cross ABC. The club quickly outgrew the old gym and moved onto new premises and changed their name to Islington Boys’ Club

An early photo of the club when they were based at York Way Community Centre and known as Kings Cross ABC. The club quickly outgrew the old gym and moved onto new premises and changed their name to Islington Boys’ Club

Archant

Islington Boxing Club was founded and known as Kings Cross ABC in January 1974, based in the community hall of York Way court close to the railway station.

A club awards night held at Michael Sobell Centre late 1970sA club awards night held at Michael Sobell Centre late 1970s

Founder members included local publican and former boxer Reg Topper, who volunteered as trainer and fundraiser, policeman Bill McCourt (honorary secretary) and railwayman Jim Parodi (treasurer).

They were backed by a willing group of trainers and helpers intent on getting the club established and hoping to rid the area of increasing vandalism by local youngsters in a deprived environment, including Wally White, Brian Wigger, George Barrow, Joe Annerson, Ron Hagland, John Roberts, Terry Emberson and others.

Sadly, within six months, Topper died of a heart attack and McCourt moved on due to promotion in his police career, so Hagland took the roles of honorary secretary and fundraiser.

Within two years the club’s expansion required larger premises and they moved briefly to the former York Way School and then the Michael Sobell Sports Centre in 1976 to accommodate the increasing membership, with the club now operating six days a week.

Islington boxers at Islington Town HallIslington boxers at Islington Town Hall

It was renamed Islington Boys’ Club and as the club grew, so did the search for their own premises to attract some borough funding.

In 1981, the Mayor of Islington suggested the possibility of using the site offices of the Bovis Construction Company on the Elthorne Park site in Hazellville Road, N19.

After a meeting with the company director it was agreed that, as the building of the Elthorne Park Estate was complete, Bovis no longer required the use of the site offices and were prepared to agree the sale of the building for £50.00 to Islington Boys’ Club, subject to Council planning permission.

The next task was getting Town Hall permission for the building’s ‘change of use’ and after many meetings and extensive negotiations, this was granted.

An Islington Boxing Club presentation nightAn Islington Boxing Club presentation night

Sadly during this transition period, White passed on and some of the club’s helpers were unable to follow the relocation to the northern end of the borough.

Administrative help had always been in short supply and in April 1983 the club suffered another loss with the passing of dedicated member Parodi that left Hagland to pick up the role of treasurer.

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Frankie Vaughan, then vice president of the National Association of Boys’ Clubs (NABC) formally opened the club’s new home in February 1984 after financial help from The Joseph Levy Charitable Foundation, The Variety Club of Great Britain, Bovis Construction Ltd, the ILEA, Federation of London Youth Clubs, plus many personal friends.

The club was converted and decorated internally in the club’s colours of red and white and furnished with a comprehensive array of equipment to make it a truly traditional boxing gym.

The first eight years were totally self-financed but Islington Council has since assisted with a small annual grant to pay for the peppercorn rent of the club building.

Most funding still comes from internal efforts and the appreciation of friends and supporters, with the club still based in Hazellville Road, and having secured a long-term lease on the land in which the current club gym sits, Islington BC are hopeful of a major redevelopment in the next few years.

Hagland carried the club forward with the aid of many friends and associates for many years, before retiring in October 2000, selling his Drive Inn Scrap Metal business in Stoke Newington and moving with wife Maureen to live in Frinton-on-Sea.

When possible, he still visited the club for the odd committee meeting and home club shows, but in July 2016, he resigned as honorary secretary due to ill health and the role was passed on to son Lenny, who had returned in 2010 to become the day-to-day manager of the club.

Hagland Sr was named as Honorary Life Vice President and remained involved with the club until his passing in March 2018.

Lenny Hagland was one of the first boys to ever box for the club, aged nine, and hung up his gloves at the age of 21 after boxing a total of 66 times and representing Young England and London.

He won a national NABC title and was a runner-up in the National Junior ABAs, going on to hold the roles of club coach, matchmaker, manager, chairman, welfare officer, development officer, secretary and chief executive officer during his time at the club.

Outside of his current roles at the club as honorary secretary and chief executive, he is the chairman of London Boxing and an England Boxing official.

Son Reggie also became heavily involved with the club, initially as an associated member for many years before becoming a co-operated member of the club committee 10 years ago.

He later became the media & PR officer and competition secretary and, like Lenny, is an England Boxing official who holds the roles of medical registrar and, on the odd occasion, matchmaker for London Boxing.


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