Bradford gym’s pivotal role as women's boxing makes debut at Commonwealth Games

Bradford gym’s pivotal role as women's boxing makes debut at Commonwealth Games

COMMONWEALTH contender Nicola Adams pictured with her coach Alwyn Belcher.

PAUL Porter, who runs the Bradford College Boxing Academy and is currently technical operations manager for the sport at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

First published in News
Last updated

WOMENS boxing makes its debut in the Commonwealth Games but what few may realise is the pivotal role Bradford is playing in providing a high profile platform for the sport.

One of the well-known contenders in the 20th Commonwealth Games, officially opened in Glasgow on Wednesday, is boxing champion Nicola Adams.

The 31-year-old regularly trains at Huggy's Gym in Spring Mill Street, Manchester Road, under the guidance of her coach, Alwyn Belcher.

Alwyn pulled on his first pair of boxing gloves in 1941 and fought at amateur level. Now the 79-year-old is passing on his expertise and will be willing Nicola on to achieve a Commonwealth Gold when sparring starts next week.

Although Nicola's association with Bradford is solely through her training at Huggy's, her success in the London 2012 Olympics and her presence at the Commonwealth Games is a great boost for the city.

"It's absolutely brilliant for Bradford," says Alwyn.

"Nicola comes up from London to train in Bradford."

The former Bradford College student has had the same impact on boxing as the so-called 'Bradley Wiggins effect' had on cycling after he too clinched Gold at the London Olympics following his triumph in the Tour de France.

Two years ago Huggy's had two girls in the gym - now there are six. "It has shone a great light on female boxing the success Nicola has had," says Alwyn.

"Everybody wants to be Nicola and get that kind of success."

Becoming the first female boxer to achieve gold in the first Commonwealth competition "would be something," says Alwyn proudly.

Interestingly, the games have another Bradford connection. Setting the scene ring-side for the sport is Paul Porter.

Sports Academies manager, Paul runs the Boxing Academy at Bradford College, among others. His remit as technical operations manager for boxing at the Commonwealth Games involves looking after everything relating to the ring as well as a team of 40 volunteers. "It is making sure the whole show runs professionally," he explains.

No stranger to being involved in high profile sporting events, Paul was involved in the London 2012 Olympics which saw Nicola not only secure a Gold medal but she also made history becoming the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title.

"Her place in women's boxing history is assured anyway after the Olympics and if you look at the standard of boxers at these tournaments it is absolutely down to women like her that the bar has been raised," says Paul.

He says the fact that Bradford is playing some part in the Commonwealth Games is also beneficial to the city. "I think that people in Bradford need to know, and I am trying to get it across, that they have the best boxing academy at any college in the country by a long way. We have boxers going all over the country to compete in major championships including youngsters from Bradford and it is a real success story for the city."

Ronny Tucker, chairman of the Yorkshire Amateur Boxing Association, is helping to raise the profile of female boxing through his gym, Aspire based in Sheffield.

Originally they had one female - now they have 10. Some box to keep fit while others are working towards pursuing it professionally.

Ronny believes the London 2012 Olympics and the Commonwealth Games have helped to raise the profile of female boxing and are encouraging more women to participate in the sport.

More women are now signing up to boxercise classes and not solely for the benefits of keeping fit. According to Ronny they are now realising they can also explore their potential to compete.

He says they have certainly seen more women coming into the club since the Olympics. Many say they have been inspired after seeing Nicola Adams in action and want to emulate her success.

"It has increased female participation," says Ronny, who wants to see more weight groups included to encourage more women to compete.

"The Olympics were in London, this is Glasgow which is still close to home. We have to look at the legacy from these events and promote the legacy," adds Ronny.

The legacy is certainly living on in Bradford where, in May, Huggy's gym was awarded £42,000 from Sport England's 'Inspired Facilities' Fund to refurbish or extend its existing sports facilities. Bradford Council's sports development unit developed the funding bid on behalf of the gym.

Paul Evans, community sport and activities development officer for Bradford Council, says there is currently a range of initiatives running in the city and district to give young people a taster of sports such as cricket and boxing.

Sports profiled in the Commonwealth Games such as athletics are also being developed through England Athletics who are encouraging more community based informal running groups in the city.

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