Daniel Hughes remembers his time in North London training alongside a boxer who made it but didn’t forget where he came from.
I used to live in London, North West London to be exact and in the mid-nineties when I moved there the local surroundings were well known estates like Mozart. Unlike the great composer it was notorious for being anything but classical. Tough areas breed tough people, boxes ticked.
A tough inner city area that has now become a sought after area to live, renamed North Kensington; an area of have and have-not’s, still is and always will be. The recent tragedy of Grenfell Tower was on my doorstep. You walk five minutes in either direction and you can be on the multi-millionaire rows of Notting Hill and Holland Park. Walk the other direction, it’s a very different story.
Walk five minutes the other way and you are not in a Hill or a Park but Harrow Road, multi-cultural, pound shops, bookmakers, full of good people. It also houses a gym, a boxing one called the All-Stars in a grade 2 listed former church. Boxing, preach to the converted like myself changes lives, whatever your experience.
The All-Stars did and has done that for anyone that has walked through it’s doors, from ‘keep-fitters” to those working in the paid ranks. The All-Stars gym is old school and has and does wonders for the local community. Cliches about keeping the young off the streets and the straight and narrow, who can not love that?
The thriving groups of both boys and girls that work out to the many, many pro’s to have graced the gym. Mike Tyson visited it once and the area stood still under the radar and the area was buzzing for weeks afterwards. Brixton was the upper class citizen in the press coverage of Tyson London visits but he felt some serious love in Harrow Road.
I used to go and use the gym twice a week as a friend was an ex-amateur and wanted to get fit and have a white collar fight and wanted me to go along with him as a training partner. I lived around the corner from the gym as well and my friend could park his cab up, work out and after a cup of tea and sandwich at my house could get out to work. More important than my role as training partner I perceive. Happy days, high level training with no expense spared, bottle of water and five quid subs.
I got introduced to an upcoming pro with principles about how he wanted his career to develop in a young local Kilburn boxer in Ashley Theophane a friend of my cab driver mate and the guy that ran the training: a well known Italian fellow from Edgware Road who became a good friend of mine both knew Ashley well and had been to lots of his fights. Ashley always promised to go to theirs.
Ashley has been given plenty of stick over the years. You take as you find, one claim being on the world wide web of forums but not actual fact he used to exaggerate his training regime, not so.
We trained 11 am to 1 pm. Ashley was always there well before 11 and was there past 1, he was then back in the evening. No manager for large parts of his career because he drove his own bus, didn’t want to take any deal and he had offers, he has things his way. He did sign with Hatton for a while but he was and is a self driven man with self belief.
Ashley was picking up wins and working his way into British title contention and landed a title shot. I went along with a decent group of friends from the guys that used to work out those midweek days. The night I guess I thought Ashley had reached a level most of us can only dream about.
He fought at Wembley Conference Centre in February 2011 for the British Light Welterweight title against the ever dangerous Lenny Daws and Theophane, the underdog as ever had a career changing night. Unanimous decision win and even the Daws fans sitting near our small group congratulated us.
Ashley Theophane now is signed with Floyd Mayweather. Boxing hard core fans are aware of that. He left the UK to persue a dream and achieved it, called a ‘journeyman’ by respected journalists. Actually, by definition he almost is: Harrow Road, London to Las Vegas, USA. A journeyman.
What of my friends? Both ex-amateurs fought at Kensington Town Hall, both won and sat near the back I was latecomer, stuck in traffic a journeyman in my own world.
Ashley Theophane, as promised, was in attendance enjoying the night and appreciating those living their own dreams, talking to the lads afterwards and breaking down their respective fights.
Watch what you see, take as you find.