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You are in: South Yorkshire > History > Sporting History > Boxing > Being Brendan

Brendan Ingle

Brendan outside the gym

Being Brendan

The BBC Open Centre hosted an evening with legendry boxing trainer Brendan Ingle MBE - read and listen to highlights from the fast talking Irishman.

Brendan Ingle has been training boxers out of the St Thomas' Gym since the '60s and is still going strong.

Mr Ingle was awarded an MBE in 1998 for his services and contributions to British boxing and work with young people in the Sheffield area.

The trainer is responsible for the success of Herol "Bomber" Graham, Prince Naseem Hamed and Johnny Nelson to name a few. Currently in the Ingle stable is Junior Witter, tipped to be the next World Champion to emerge from the Ingle camp.

In the beginning

Brendan arrived in Sheffield from Dublin aged 18 and fought as a professional middleweight boxer in his mid-20's. At his pinnacle he was ranked as the number eight fighter in the UK.

Brendan hailed from a very large family: "I was one of 15... 10 brothers and myself, and four sisters," said Ingle.

All his brothers boxed and a young Brendan took up the sport with help from a friend of his fathers: "Everybody thought you were mad if you boxed, but you don't have to be mad to be in boxing, but it helps."

Brendan was asked by the Vicar in Wincobank to carry out some community work as some of the youth in the area were "running wild". Brendan knew nothing but boxing, but began organising a weekly dance, during which he made the transition from fighter to trainer.

"It's politically incorrect now, but all the nutcases around Wincobank were coming in. We used to have a dance on the Sunday - but after people would turnout on the street and start fighting down Newman Road.

Brendan Ingle in the BBC Open Centre

"So, after 11 o'clock we'd lock the doors, I'd fetch the gloves out, which really, thinking about it now was crazy. So I used to be the referee, but the girls could fight better than the lads but nobody ever got hurt."

The wise man of Wincobank

Brendan is a man of many words, mostly telling tales and giving advise to the young and old in his gym. His advise comes in three areas; God, good health and a good attitude.

"I say God, but a lot of people don't believe in God and I understand that. I find If you're in good health you don't have to worry about yourself and your family and friends don't have to worry either. The third one is if you've got a good attitude and a good education nobody can control your life."

"The biggest expense [in the gym] is the heat, the light and the water, and I used to pay for it and my wife would say I'm mad, "we're always skint, you've got to start charging some sort of sub".

"So what we do now, I'd charge £20 to join, it is a fiver for one hour, the other 40 hours, the other 60 hours for free".

"So people say 'it's a fiver a week?' I say 'no, it's a fiver for one hour, then you're under an obligation to me to do as you're told. It's no good beating around the bush, because if they look good I look good, if they look crap it makes me look crap.

Attitude is key

Boxers sometimes are given a rough, tough image, and although they are tough most are passive outside of the ring and maintain a professional attitude throughout.

"We've got a lot of Asian lads and Black lads, a lot of mixed race, a lot of white kids - so we've got a great selection and if you go into an area where there's only whites and you're Asian and boxing the local kid, before you get to the ring they will call you lots of names, they will do everything.

Junior Witter and Johnny Nelson commentate for BBC

Witter (left) and Nelson at Magna

"So the Asian kid turns around, shakes their hand and says; "thanks for buying a ticket and coming to watch me", the kid goes and wins and then shakes the guy's hand on the way out and says "thanks very much for supporting me".

How to handle the fame?

"When you're 19, 20, 21 and your picture is in the paper and you're on television, I always say to them, fame and glory is only a twinkle in the eye - the nice thing about having the money is the independence it gives you, it doesn't make you happy."

Trainers put an immense amount of time into training boxers in their gym so it's no surprise that they get a cut of the earnings once a boxer turns pro.

"If a fighter goes professional he will pay us 10% of what he earns for training and then he'll pay us 25% for management, everybody charges that. It's the time commitment and the knowledge of what you're doing - I used to manage and train them for 25% - some people appreciate it some people don't.

"So after spending 10 years, like Naseem Hamed the going rate is 10% for the training and 25% for managing.

"They haven't got a problem with a cut of £400 but they can have a problem with £4000, £4m? Forget about it, because then someone says 'but you're getting in there and fighting, why have you got to pay him [trainer] £1m?'

"And I say, I've just spent 18 years, 7 days a week, six, seven, eight hours a day."

On Johnny Nelson

"The biggest success story from our gym is Johnny Nelson. We trained him seven days a week and he came from one end of Sheffield catching two busses to get to Wincobank and people used to say to me 'he's rubbish, he's gonna do nothing', I says 'he'll finish a world champion'.

"We won the British, Commonwealth and European and has been World Champion five or six years, he's been all over the world, he's got a farm. Now he came from a very poor background, when you turn on BBC television you see Johnny Nelson on programmes, you hear him on Radio Sheffield and commentating on Sky.

"He's a very, very nice person, very wealthy and he can sit down and converse with anyone... he's the biggest success story."

On Prince Naseem

"Naseem Hamed should have gone on and on, and I said to people that he could have been as good if not better than Muhammed Ali... you look at what he can do.

Naseem Hamed

Prince Naseem in action

"But Naseem, he never reached his potential, what he could have done would have been just amazing. He used to sparr with Neville Brown who used to be middleweight champion... there was a difference of two and a half stones... he [Neville] couldn't hit him!"

"The pinnacle of his career was when he beat Robinson for the title.... from then on he became a nightmare, and it's not criticising him, it's a fact what happened.

"It became a nightmare training him... but I'm the trainer and at the end of the day the buck stops at me, no matter what the problems are people would always come to me and ask what was wrong.

"But money does strange things to people - if I was 21 and had two or three million pounds I don't know what would happen."

To listen to the audio clips from the interview click on the links on the top right of this page.

last updated: 03/04/2008 at 16:28
created: 20/04/2005

You are in: South Yorkshire > History > Sporting History > Boxing > Being Brendan

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