Whether you’re new to boxing or a lifetime fan, getting into the sport may not be the easiest thing to do. You could be looking for a whole new fitness regime, wanting a space to unleash your energy or aspiring to go pro.
Don’t know where your local boxing gym is, or which one is the best in the area?
We’re running through the best boxing gyms in the UK, and which world champions went through the ropes here on their journey to clinching the title.
England’s capital has always produced a hotbed of talent over the decades, none more so in the 21st century than the Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club (70 St Marks Rd, London W10 6NP) in North Kensington.
Tragically lost in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, the infamous gym has now been rebuilt under the Westway flyover in the district, where former super-middleweight champ George Groves helps every Sunday, coaching the next generation of fighters.
It wasn’t just George Groves that formed his stardom based in this gym, 2008 Olympic gold medallist and fellow Brit James DeGale trained his way up to become IBF super-middleweight champ in the same ring. The pair put Dale Youth ABC centre stage when they held a pre-fight press conference inside the gym’s ring before their clash in 2011.
In Bermondsey, Fisher Amateur Boxing Club (Downside Fisher Youth Club, Coxson Place, Durid Street, London SE1 2EZ) has been a longstanding part of the community, producing the likes of legendary fighters Terry Downes and Lloyd Honeyghan.
Downes joined the gym as a junior before moving to the US to fight for the Marine corps. Champion of the American amateur Golden Gloves comp, he returned to the UK and became a big name in British boxing, defeating Paul Pender in their rematch to become The Ring middleweight world champ.
Moving up to light heavyweight, his last fight saw him take on Willie Pastrano for the WBA, WBC and The Ring titles. Despite being ahead on the scorecards, Downes was stopped in the eleventh round.
Lloyd Honeygan’s career began a lot later than Downes’ did but by stepping into Fisher ABC at 11, it set him up for a long career in the pro game.
With 43 wins from a 48-bout career, which spanned from 1980-95, his 28th fight saw him head to Atlantic City to claim the WBA, WBC, IBF and The Ring welterweight belts. He would go on to regain his WBC and The Ring titles in a rematch to Jorge Vaca, after controversially losing them via technical decision in their first fight.
In Camberwell, Lynn ABC (Wells Way, London SE5 0PX) saw Matt Wells come through the ranks at the beginning of the 20th century. Boxing out of the gym from 1904 to 1907, Wells held the ABA British featherweight title, before competing in the Summer Olympics in London a year later.
His pro career took him to the welterweight title by defeating Tom McCormick in 20-round points win at the Sydney Stadium, New South Wales.
Decades later, Henry Akinwande made his mark on the gym in the heavyweight division, taking the ABA heavyweight crown in both 1988 and ’89. Turning pro shortly after, Akinwande was undefeated in his first 33 fights, winning the vacant WBO belt in his 31st.
His 34th was an all-British affair out in Nevada, chasing after Lennox Lewis’ WBC title. With plenty of build-up beforehand, the subdued match came to an early end as Akinwande was disqualified for repeatedly holding Lewis in the fifth round.
Like Lynn ABC, Finchley and District ABC (Anchor Hall, Bulwer Rd, Barnet EN5 5EX) has produced two British world champs in completely different weight categories in the modern era: Darren Barker at middleweight and Anthony Joshua at heavyweight.
Trained by Jimmy Oliver, local lad Barker claimed the IBF middleweight title in 2013, beating Daniel Geale in Atlantic City – having lost their two years previous for the WBC belt. His first defence proved to be the last professional fight of his career, losing to Felix Sturm in Stuttgart.
As Barker reached his peak, the lesser-known Joshua made the headlines in London when he claimed Olympic Gold in the super heavyweight category.
Now a global superstar in and out of the ring, Joshua took his amateur learnings into his pro career, reaching the summit of the heavyweight division as a two-time unified world champion.
British boxing champions aren’t just created in the south of England; up in Liverpool, Kirkby ABC (Oatlands Rd, Liverpool L32 0TZ) produced WBC light-heavyweight champion John Conteh and WBC featherweight champion Paul Hodkinson.
Conteh began training in the gym at 10, with the likes of fellow British amateur Joey Singleton in the gym at the same time. Learning the basics at such a young age progressed him to middleweight gold at the 1970 Commonwealth Games, aged just 19. This progression led him to the world title just four years later.
Hodkinson’s pro career began in 1985 at Wembley Stadium on the undercard of Frank Bruno against Tim Witherspoon. This kickstarted an unbeaten run of 18 bouts, before being forced to retire against Marcos Vilasana in their fight for the vacant WBC featherweight belt.
He was made to wait just 18 months for his next shot, this time beating Vilasana in the rematch in Belfast. The successful defence of his WBC crown would last just three fights when he lost by TKO to Gregorio Vargas in Dublin.
Elsewhere in Liverpool, Rotunda ABC (Lambeth Rd, Kirkdale, Liverpool L5 7QY) has seen Tony Bellew, Callum Smith and Liam Smith progress from amateurs to world champions in the past 20 years.
Starting his career at light-heavyweight, his first opportunity at a world title shot came last-minute against Nathan Cleverly. With the WBO belt on the line, Bellew, disappointingly, failed to make weight in time.
Luckily for Bellew, his second chance came months later when the pair met in Liverpool. It proved to be a step too soon, losing out by majority decision in front of his home crowd.
Two years later, Bellew was mandatory challenger to Adonis Stevenson for WBC title. With making weight an issue for the 6’3” fighter, Stevenson stopped Bellew midway through the fight, prompting the Liverpudlian to move up to cruiserweight.
Bellew finally won his first world title, beating Ilunga Makabu at Goodison Park to be crowned WBC cruiserweight champ.
After moving up to heavyweight to fight David Haye towards the tail end of both their careers, Bellew’s last fight was an all-or-nothing bout against undisputed cruiserweight world champion, Oleksandr Usyk.
British boxing’s most successful brothers, the Smiths, owe much of their success to Rotunda ABC.
Older of the two, Liam built a strong domestic reputation in the light-middleweight division that led him to a WBO world title shot against John Thompson. Seeing Thompson off with a seventh-round KO, Smith went on to successfully defend his title twice, before losing to pound-for-pound great Canelo Álvarez.
Like Liam, Callum’s career has followed a similar trajectory. His record at super-middleweight led him to WBA and The Ring champ, lifting the Muhammad Ali trophy following his knockout win over George Groves in World Boxing Super Series.
Defending his titles two more times, it was the familiar face of Álvarez that inflicted another defeat on the Smith family in 2020, with Callum relinquishing his belts.
The Steel City has bred legendary fighters over the years, none more so than Nassem Hamed, Johnny Nelson and Kell Brook from the Wincobank Gym (Newman Rd, Sheffield S9 1LP).
Now named after legendary boxing trainer and manager Brendan Ingle, the unremarkable building’s old-school interior was the backdrop to their careers.
Despite losing his first three pro fights, Johnny Nelson went on to become WBO cruiserweight world champion. He retained his belt across 13 fights and seven years, making him the longest serving cruiserweight champion of all time.
The ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed is noted as one of the most talented fighters to come from these shoes; pairing that with flamboyant ring walks and natural confidence.
With standout punch power that saw him win 31/36 fights by knockout, his first title came in just his 20th fight, beating Steve Robinson to win the WBO featherweight title. He would go on to defend this 15 times in the next five years, picking up the IBF title against Tom Johnson and the WBC title against César Soto along the way.
Losing out to Marco Antonio Barrera for the vacant IBO title, his last bout saw him go out on a high, as he beat Manuel Calvo to win the same belt in May 2002.
Growing up with these fighters in the same gym as him, Brook began his amateur career under Brendan Ingle aged just 12.
In recent times, the ‘Special One’ has been coached by Ingle’s son, Dominic, implementing the same style that was taught to previous champions. This style saw him go on to win the IBF welterweight title against Shawn Porter in 2014, retaining the belt a further three times. He moved up a division to take Gennady Golovkin for the WBC, IBF and IBO middleweight belts, only to lose by TKO.
Realising the weight was too greater jump for him, Brook moved back down to defend his IBF welterweight crown, only to lose out to the talented Errol Spence Jr. at his him ground of Bramall Lane.
He would go on to challenge for Terrence Crawford’s WBO belt but came up short against one of the world’s best.
Are one of these gyms near you? With plenty more amateur clubs across the UK producing the best of the best, head down to your local ABC and lace up your gloves for the first time!
For more boxing news ahead of Matchroom fight nights, stay locked into @jdsports across our socials. 📲
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