When boxing club was dealt knockout blow

By John Ware   |   Reporter   |
Wednesday 2nd February 2022 2:00 pm
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THERE was shock when Teignmouth Boxing Club rated one of the best in the region suddenly closed in 1983.

It was the pride and joy of the resort and the late trainer and manager Fred Tooley, who later became the Mayor.

The club probably produced more talented young boxers than any club in the land, but it was eventually knocked out by a combination of apathy and lack of backroom helpers.

When Fred decided to retire, the end was in sight. There was nobody to replace him,and without a trainer to bring on and encourage the boys, the whole reason for the club’s existence went.

There were no financial problems, but the committee was finding it increasingly difficult to raise the money necessary to meet the basic overheads. Just paying the rates, heating and lighting for the town centre headquarters cost about £40 a week.

‘It is a sad time for me because the club has been part of my life for so long. But there is just no other way,’ said Fred, a champion boxer himself in his younger days.

‘I have put thousands of hours into the club by training the boys, travelling all over the country with them to tournaments, and organising all sorts of things. I am not getting any younger and for some time now I have wanted to ease down and spend more time with my family, and devote a bit more attention to my town council work which I enjoy.

‘There has been nobody ready to take over from me. Several people have expressed an interest, but they have proved unreliable and do not want to know when they realise how much time is involved.

‘Perhaps it is my fault because I have always been a bit of a one man band and liked to do things my way, but nobody has been pestering me to help out.

‘our financial position is quite healthy with several hundred pounds in the bank. Most of our money was raised from bingo sessions, but the competition was increasing in that field and takings were dwindling.

‘We did not want to see the club running into financial problems in the future, so it was decided to wind up while we were still on top.

‘Interest in the club seems to have dwindled generally. There is just not so much enthusiasm now and we are down to about seven committee members who are expected to do all the work. A lot of the parents were involved with the club when their boys were boxing have now drifted away.’

Fred hopes to get the remaining boxers, mainly beginners, fixed up with the neighbouring Dawlish club, and any cash left in the kitty will probably be shared among other sporting clubs in the town.

Fred, 44, first joined the club when he was 10 and training sessions were held in the army cadet hut.

He won many honours as a boxer and was one of the leading lights when the club took over the derelict Lyceum Theatre in Somerset Place.

Thousands of pounds were raised to convert the building into a clubhouse and gymnasium, that was the envy of many other clubs.

One of the most memorable days was when former British and European heavyweight champion Henry Cooper performed the opening ceremony in 1973.

‘He said it was one of the best club premises he had ever seen, and he was right. I have travelled all over the country and visited top club sin London and other big cities, but none of them could what we had in Teignmouth. The trouble was that some of the boys just did not realise how lucky they were,’ Fred added.

Over the years the club produced 14 schoolboy finalists, four of them coming home with titles.

One of the many highlights in a short but glittering history came in 1982 when the club hosted the England v Wales schoolboy international at the Carlton Theatre.

A big home crowd raised the roof when another Tooley, -Fred’s son Martin - won his bout for England against a fancied opponent.