Islington Boxing Club’s former England fighter is back where it began
- Credit: Archant
Islington BC’s Darren Ballinger has unfinished business as he eyes a shot at the England Boxing Elite Championships in the new year.
Ballinger enjoyed a successful first spell with the club, winning two London ABA novices titles at lightweight as well as reaching a national final and becoming a London elite champion.
The son of another London champion, Noel Alleyne, he was even selected to box for England in 2012 – losing out to reigning national champion Sam Maxwell in his single appearance at Basingstoke.
There followed a hiatus of almost four years as Ballinger focused on family commitments and his job as a firefighter in Homerton – but he is back in action now and itching for another shot at glory.
“It got difficult trying to balance boxing with work and family, hence the break,” Ballinger told the Gazette. “But I couldn’t stay away! If I came back it was always going to be at Islington.
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“Now I’m trying to get the balance right so I can step it up to the next level. There’s still an issue with my work – the shift system doesn’t really lend itself to getting to the gym in the evenings to train.
“Ideally I’d want to be there three times a week and at the moment it’s roughly twice a week. The plan now is to box regularly and, if it goes well, I want to go for the championships and take it from there.”
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Despite his father’s success in an Islington vest, Ballinger was a fairly late recruit to boxing in his mid-20s and originally intended to fight just once, for the experience.
That single bout was followed by another 34 – including his clash with Maxwell – before Ballinger reluctantly opted to hang up his gloves soon afterwards.
Now a father of three, the 33-year-old made his return to the ring on last month’s Islington dinner show at the Royal National Hotel, when he lost on a split decision to Basingstoke’s Will Nimako.
And there was a similar outcome when Ballinger took on Mark Butler (Hillcrest ABC) at the club’s open show at the Boston Arms, Tufnell Park – although he was named best home boxer of the night.
“It didn’t feel as weird as I was expecting,” Ballinger added. “I expected to be overwhelmed with nerves [against Nimako], just like having my first fight again.
“But as soon as I got in the ring there were no problems. Maybe I’m a bit ring-rusty and slow to get going, but overall it hasn’t been too bad.
“It’s been really good coming back into the gym at Islington – the atmosphere’s the same. It still feels like a family, there are still a lot of the same trainers and a lot of good characters.
“Before I left, we had really good sparring and since I came back the sparring has only got better. We’ve got more people and more variety in the sparring.”