Carl Greaves, Dean Sugden and Esham Pickering react to lockdown and talk the future of boxing in Newark
Newark’s boxing coaches have addressed their fears for the sport, but are determined to continue to show their fighting spirit as lockdown continues.
Coaches Carl Greaves, Dean Sugden and Esham Pickering — who all enjoyed successful professional fighting careers — are responsible for training the next generation in the town, and said there could become a ‘lost generation of fighters’ off the back of covid-19.
Sugden, head coach at Suggy’s Gym, Newark, which caters for young amateur boxers and kickboxers, said: “100% — I am worried.
“We are now in an online world because of lockdown and when it comes to activities like kickboxing and boxing, it will always be a hands’ on and practical real-life experience.
“It doesn’t’ translate to online, we need that interaction. More importantly, kids need to be focussed and use their energy.
“They need to be in an environment where they aren’t disjointed or distracted.
“It makes you question if there will be a lost generation of fighters.
“At the minute, there is no pads — there is no sparring.”
Sugden highlighted the significant pressure being placed on ensuring the education system is implemented correctly by the government, and said the same amount of energy should be used to address sport.
He said: “For every child that is focused academically, there is one who might not be, and their focus might be sport — whether it be football, kickboxing or anything else.
“Not all kids are academics. Some kids need stimulating in different ways.
“Some of our kids have worked so hard to get to where they are now, whether it was winning a championship, getting to a final or even representing their country, they are now in a period whereby there is no goal.
“Nobody knows when we are going to return to normal.
“Schools have their March date, according to Boris (Johnson), and I don’t think there is the same sort of motivation for kids who might not be academics — for kids who need that sporting focus and drive.”
Sugden’s comments came after England Boxing postponed the NAC’s and Schools Championships until later in the year.
England Boxing said the decision was made because of the insufficient time for boxers to prepare, even if the lockdown was to end in line with current government projections and the known requirement of a phased return, which is approximately one month per phase.
“England Boxing has announced their dates will be postponed, but there isn’t another date so in the works so it almost seems like a cancellation, so the danger is there is no plan,” said Sugden.
“What is the thought process? If we are not careful we are going to miss two full years of competition.
“We know how hard it is to maintain focus with no goal or no competition.”
Esham Pickering, of Epic Golden Gloves Gym in Newark, coaches young amateur boxers in the area.
He said: “I have all of the guys in a group, around 30 to 40 of us, and they all have aspirations of continuing.
“These sorts of times are tough, but good for trainers because you have to keep them motivated but tested.
“Also, you have to look at keeping everybody involved and making sure nobody goes off track.
“With the amateurs, it is a different organisation to the pros, and we don’t know how long it will take to actually get our shows going again once we are out of lockdown.
“I had a couple of lads who would have been ready for the pros by now, but we have to keep plugging away. We can’t change it.
“I stress to them that it is all a mental job — like most things in life. I believe 99% of it is a mental battle.
“I am just hoping that everything comes back together, but of course it is much deeper than that.”
On the professional side of things, Greaves, who, during a normal year would act as a boxing promoter and trainer, said he had countless small hall pros who were chomping at the bit to return to the ring.
“I have had all the lads ticking over, but only had Dec (Spelman) had been out with me consistently during lockdown because he has had two massive fights,” said Greaves, who trains out of his industrial estate site.
“Other than that, it has been a really sad and difficult time for all of the prospects to be honest.
“Not just as a trainer but also as a promoter because I can’t get any of them out until we have crowds back.
“I have a lot of top prospects — a lot of them are unbeaten, and they are in that stage of trying to break through to get to British title level, so it is really frustrating for them.
“Hopefully we can get shows on again soon now we have started putting the vaccine out, but obviously with crowds it will still be difficult.
“We aren’t going to be able to put shows on until (coronavirus) testing has stopped because of the price of it. To test all of the fighters, staff and supporters in a venue would be too much.”
Greaves said he would put on a ‘mega show’ at the Morningside Arena, Leicester, as soon as it was safe to do so to help his fighters bounce back.
“As soon as we can that will be my first show,” he said. “That will cater for all of my East Midlands fighters and it will get them back in the ring and it will hopefully bring in a lot of support.
“I think, being realistic, people will still be weary and it will be difficult in some cases — but we will see.”
Greaves has recently been training his Russian-born fighter David Avanesyan ahead of his European title defence against Josh Kelly, which will take place at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Saturday, February 20.