Former Islington Boxing Club prospect takes first step into coaching

Islington Boxing Club level 1 coaches (left to right) Barry Healey, Marconi Griffin and Ben Turner

Islington Boxing Club level 1 coaches (left to right) Barry Healey, Marconi Griffin and Ben Turner - Credit: Archant

Only two years ago, Islington BC teenager Ben Turner seemed set for a bright future in the ring.

At the age of 16, Turner was captaining the Hazellville Road club’s junior section, and had narrowly missed out on a place in the final of the National Association of Boys’ Clubs Championships.

However, his hopes of building on that defeat to Walcot ABC’s Patrick McDonagh in the Class A Under-63kg final were shattered after he was diagnosed with blood clots on the lungs and given no option but to hang up his gloves for good.

Yet Turner, now 18, has worked hard to overcome that crushing setback by taking a positive approach, returning to Islington as one of the coaches to their junior boxers.

Within a matter of months, he has already passed his level 1 assistant coach’s course – along with fellow volunteers Barry Healey and Marconi Griffin – and is determined to continue that rapid progress.

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“It’s a lot of responsibility because their success is your success and you just want them to reach their potential,” Turner told the Gazette. “At the moment I’m focused on getting to level 2.

“Long-term I’d like to get up to levels 3 and 4, where you can work with the national squad and have boys and girls coming in and out depending on how well they’re doing.

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“Being a coach keeps me within the sport and it means I can pass my knowledge on to the others. Hopefully we can produce some national champions for Islington.

“Helping them achieve helps me to achieve. I’ve got a scrapbook, all laminated with cuttings and photos from my time boxing – so it’d be nice to have a separate one on the coaching side as well.”

Turner, who won the NABC Championship London title in 2013 and also used to play rugby, received counselling for depression following the diagnosis of his lung problem.

But the counselling sessions have ended since he took up his coaching role – and the teenager is quick to credit club chairman Lenny Hagland for the part he has played in that turnaround.

“I’ve done sport since I was small, so going from a high fitness level and training 24/7 to basically nothing was hard,” said Turner. “Boxing was the thing that really made me happy.

“I didn’t want to be just sitting on my backside all day and I needed to get my life back on track. I thought ‘if I can’t achieve something myself, the next best thing is to help others achieve’.

“Islington Boxing Club is a close-knit group – it’s like a family and Lenny’s the father figure. If you’re in trouble or need help he’s the one you go to.

“So I went straight back to Lenny, just told him what the situation was and he suggested that I coach the juniors. I’m really enjoying it and I don’t need counselling now.”

Turner, who lives at a hostel-type assessment centre in Belsize Park, is now working with approximately 20 youngsters at the gym, ranging in age from 10 to 15.

He is also helping his 12-year-old sister Lucy – who has had two fights for Islington so far and recently appeared in a film titled ‘Unladylike’, charting the rise of women’s boxing – to develop her skills.

“Lucy’s just started year 7 and she’s taken a bit of time out, but she’s planning on going back in the new year,” Turner added. “Obviously I want to help her progress but I’ve got to focus on the others in the gym as well.

“Most have just come up from the academy. Some of them come upstairs laughing and joking and they soon realise it’s 10 times harder – but we haven’t had anyone go back downstairs yet!

“The good thing is I can relate to them on a certain level because I’ve only just gone past that age myself and I think that helps.

“They see the newspaper articles and pictures on the walls around the gym and they want to talk to you about how your fights went.

“It’s great when you see their faces light up and they want to get in the ring even more.”

Healey, 23, moved over from Ireland after previously coaching at St Margaret’s ABC, Tralee, and has also been helping out with the club’s seniors when required.

Forty-four year-old Griffith, who has been with Islington for two years, coaches the club’s junior academy on Mondays and Fridays, as well as the recreational sessions that take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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