Whitley Amateur Boxing Club is right at the heart of Whitley, both in location and spirit. In just three years, a lot of hard work from locals has seen this small hall in Callington Road transformed into a hub of community boxing and exercise activity that is well equipped and staffed. The place is packed to the rafters with talented fighters, hopefuls and enthusiasts, six days of the week.
Former John Madejski Academy pupil and locally-grown talent Tamuka Mucha has a title fight at York Hall in Bethnal Green on Friday 16 February for the British Boxing Board of Control’s welterweight title [14 February: this fight has now been called off]. He was down at the Whitley Club on Saturday for a public training session and he looked sharp in this small but atmospheric, lively and well set-up club.
I spoke to an old Ashmead school mate, Earl Stewart, for a low down on the big fight and the rise of the boxing club.
[Matthew] What do you do here, Earl?
[Earl] I’m a level one boxing coach and I come down Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings and any other time I can spare, as I do have a day job as a postman too. The club is open every day apart from Friday; from around 9.30am until 1pm all the boxers come down for proper sparring and training, so it’s packed in the day and again in the evening, when all the others come down.
What do you most enjoy about being down here?
I really enjoy coaching; it’s the best thing I have ever done. I got Nathan Ward (club chief) into boxing years ago when he was a lad, and I bumped into him again years later and he invited me down here, so we went full circle.
What sort of boxer is Tamuka?
He is a very nice guy and he had one defeat, so he had to go back to his own old style which is really as a quick and tough pressure fighter. We are feeling really good about Friday’s bout.
Who are your boxing heroes?
I really liked Sugar Ray Leonard and Pernell Whitaker. Floyd Mayweather out of today’s lot, although he is everyone’s hero nowadays; I like the arty sort of fighter. Sugar Ray versus Roberto Duran was just the most amazing thing; Duran couldn’t hit him, watch it on Youtube.
Have the police sent any youngsters down here to keep them out of trouble?
Yes; they have been sent Nathan’s way and he has encouraged them and they love it here. It is a very positive thing to give them somewhere to go and keep them out of trouble, learning the benefits of fitness and discipline. There has also been some work with schools and helping out there. It has helped turn lives around.
Is there going to be a Whitley champion?
Yes; it’s coming soon. We even have a ten-year-old here who has won nine out of his ten fights.
Can anyone come here?
As long as you pay the subs, even if it’s your first time boxing, we have a circuit for everyone to do and you do what you can. We would teach you the stance and how to throw a punch. We have men and women come along and kids of all abilities; maybe just to lose weight or to keep fit, or even just gain some confidence – we have a plan for all. The only difference would be is that full boxers would be sparring and training for real.
I notice there is a bit of waste ground next door for possible expansion.
Yes; Nathan is looking into that and being able to get a bit bigger would be very useful in future. We are very well equipped here but it would be great to expand.
Tamuka himself is lean, keen and focussed. He is a very polite and bright 24-year-old who graciously thanked everyone for coming along, in person. The speed of his punches and combinations in his sparring work made it very hard to get a photograph that wasn’t a blur and the sound of his gloves hitting the trainer’s hand pads sounded like hammers on bags of wet cement, with a hint of the drumbeats at the end of Eastenders.
Tamuka is originally from Zimbabwe, where he and his family were persecuted by the Mugabe regime. His father was shot and lost the use of his legs for having the temerity to suggest people should vote against such tyranny. His inspirational mother is a nurse, and she reluctantly decided they should emigrate and seek a better life when Tamuka was just eleven, coming to Reading where she had some good friends. He has been on a hard road but has stayed on course as a boxer, winning 16 of his 17 fights.
I wished Tamuka luck and he replied saying he was feeling very good indeed and was really looking forward to the fight. His original opponent has made himself unavailable so he will face Freddy Kiwitt on Friday night in Bethnal Green, who is said to be a very decent fighter with some good form.
I asked his sparring trainer if he felt Tamuka’s punches through the hand pads, and he told me not in his hands but he certainly felt jarring pain absorbing the impact in his elbows. I admit I don’t know a lot about boxing but I know this guy is full of pride and intent and he is going to give it a real go on Friday.
Thanks to Trevor Absolom for some of the pictures.
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.