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Suggy’s Gym, which opened its doors on Castlegate, Newark, 20 years ago this week, is in the celebratory mood

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One of the town’s most recognisable gyms is celebrating its 20-year anniversary.

Suggy’s Gym, which opened its doors on Castlegate, Newark, 20 years ago this week, is in the celebratory mood, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing for 53-year-old owner Dean Sugden.

“I first began training and teaching combat sports in numerous locations around the town for about ten years, and we actually started in St Mary’s Rooms before eventually moving to the Lincoln Road sports facilities,” he said.

The fighting Sugden clan, left to right: Regis, Dean (father), Baily, Chad (40188541)
The fighting Sugden clan, left to right: Regis, Dean (father), Baily, Chad (40188541)

“We were there for about five years, and then at the turn of the century, we made the big move.

“We covered a lot of different martial arts, not too dissimilar to what we do now, ranging from karate, kick-boxing and then about four years later, boxing.”

Outside of the gym, Sugden’s kickboxing career was booming and, after unifying the British titles in 2002, he made a move for the European title in 2003 — but failed.

Dean Sugden (32298471)
Dean Sugden (32298471)

“There was a lot of momentum behind me, not just in my career but for the gym as well,” said Sugden.

“In those days we were still trying to establish ourselves as the go-to place for kickboxing and boxing in the town and, with that European fight, I had a lot of backing from people in the town.

“I was offered another European title fight at a lower weight and this time I was successful.

“In 2005, I then hit the pinnacle of my career when, for the very first time, I fought in front of Newark fans, who had been following me up and down the country, at Newark Showground.

“We sold out the Lady Eastwood which was around 2,000 people. It was a magnificent night and I won the WKA world title.

“After I won it, I knew I had reached the peak of my career and from then onwards the focus switched to coaching and the gym. It was something I could build on.

“We had just launched Newark Amateur Boxing Club, so we had a lot of different avenues open to people in the gym.”

Sugden said the success of his career on a personal level also saw the respect towards the gym increase.

“Chad, Regis and Bailey were young children, just getting into the sport, and a lot of the parents, mums in particular, wanted to do classes to get fit and that introduced a new avenue and spiralled into a fitness side of things,” he said.

“We started to become more known as a fitness gym, and not only as a fighters’ gym.”

Sugden said different generations of Newark families have since benefited from the gym.

“For me, it was always about developing the acorn into a very strong tree and having kids come into the gym, who have arrived as sometimes a nervous child, but over a period of time have perfected their skills and left as confident people, it is great,” said Sugden.

He highlighted Jade Grierson, Lewis Fallon and Danny Swanwick, who were all once British kickboxing champion as youngsters and had found success inside and outside of the sport.

“We want people to grow and develop in all aspects, and we treat people like a big family,” he said.

In total, more than 100 champions, from area through to European and even world, have emerged from the gym.

“It is remarkable when I think about how it started, coming out of a little church hall,” said Sugden.

“It has been hard to keep our doors open at times, but we have found a way to survive, and we always will because it is what I love to do.

“When I reflect on the best moments, I can’t — where do I start?”

The gym had another challenge this year when the government closed all non-essential businesses in March due to covid-19, and the Sugden family used that time to create an outdoor facility at the gym.

A celebratory offer is available at the gym.

Sugden said: “Anybody who walks through the door, from people aged five up to 70, we welcome everybody.”

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