Melton Amateur Boxing Club closure marks end of a proud era

A piece of town’s sporting heritage has been lost after Melton Amateur Boxing Club closed its doors for the final time last week.

By Chris Harby
Thursday, 19th December 2019, 8:30 am
Melton ABC coach Trev Booth (left) with assistant Royce Dawson at the club's long-time Rosebery Avenue home EMN-191217-162547002
Melton ABC coach Trev Booth (left) with assistant Royce Dawson at the club's long-time Rosebery Avenue home EMN-191217-162547002

Long-time head coach Trev Booth and assistant Royce Dawson decided to call time on the club after being told their Rosebery Avenue base would be redeveloped.

Booth spent Tuesday clearing out the final pieces of equipment before handing back the keys for the final time yesterday (Wednesday).

There has been boxing in the town, on and off, since before the second World War, and it enjoyed a particularly strong heyday in the 1950s under coaches

Royce and Trev stand in their eerily empty clubhouse EMN-191217-162523002

Ivor and Wally Roberts.

The current club was set up around 25 years ago by Booth and Keith Saggers, who was known to many as Melton’s Mr Boxing.

“I was at Bingham for 14 years and wanted a club in Melton so me and Keith just started it,” said Booth.

“We have been here for 20 years and before that just around the corner for a few years.

Paul Butlin was the second professional opponent of future world champion Anthony Joshua back in 2013 EMN-191217-171119002

“It’s been good fun while it lasted, it’s just a shame there isn’t a boxing club in Melton anymore.”

While not at a time of their choosing, the club’s closure made a difficult decision slightly easier for Booth who had been threatening to retire from coaching for several years.

The lack of an alternative property at an affordable rent also sharpened a few minds.

“I’m 71, my mate’s 71 and we were after new coaches to take over a while ago, but no-one seemed interested,” he said.

Booth believes David Kealy (centre with Butlin) was one of the best boxers he coached EMN-191217-171237002

“In the past we would have had lots of offers.

“So we had a meeting and everyone said the same thing. We have to go at some point.”

He added: “I got asked if I would like to carry on for another club, but there is absolutely nowhere else, at least not as cheap as the place we had.

“We could just afford the rent with what we had coming in from the boxers.”

Former Melton ABC man Josh Quailey, pictured with new trainer Carl Greaves after his pro debut bout. Picture: David Wainwright EMN-191217-171347002

The club has developed or trained several ABA national finalists and professionals over the past couple of decades, including retired heavyweight Paul Butlin and Josh Quailey who recently turned pro.

But Booth ranks Dave Kealy, whose professional career failed to ignite, among the best he ever coached.

“He was one of the best boxers I have ever come across – he was just a natural,” he said.

“The Power twins were the best twins we ever had. If they’d been super heavyweights they could have been world champions.

“And we also had Tom Hessin who won the nationals twice as a junior.

“We have had some cracking lads down there, more good ones than bad ones.”

The sport is well known for keeping vulnerable youngsters out of trouble and offering a positive alternative path.

And Booth fears the lack of a facility could also have a negative impact on the town socially.

“Boxing teaches you discipline – every town should have a boxing club.

“I think there will be more kids on the street again.”

While the closure marked the end – at least for now – of a dedicated boxing gym in Melton, it also closes a long chapter for its head coach.

He joined a big party of supporters to watch Quailey’s latest bout in Leicester recently and will continue to follow his former boxers.

But Booth, who once returned to his day job week just weeks after retirement, admits he will find it hard to spectate without looking for faults to correct.

“We have been coaching and labourers here,” he added.

“But you can’t so something for all of those years and not miss it.

“I have had 40 years of it and I’ve always loved the training, I still do.

“It was always a good atmosphere at the club and we had lots of banter. I’ll miss that as well.”