FOR­WARD PLAN­NING

Tommy Coyle is fiercely proud of his roots. Be­fore he at­tempts make a splash in Bos­ton this week­end, he tells Terry Dookry about a per­sonal mis­sion to safe­guard his fu­ture

Boxing News - - Contents - TOMMY COYLE

Tommy Coyle looks ahead to the end of his ca­reer and be­yond

THE city of Hull’s poor per­cep­tion in the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion stems from the idea that it is merely a poverty-stricken port town that reeks of fish. That per­cep­tion was un­likely to have been helped by a mem­o­rable episode of sit­com Only Fools and Horses called To Hull and Back, in which it was re­duced to a punch­line. How­ever, dur­ing World War Two the city en­dured its own blitz, around 1,200 died as the Nazis re­duced swathes of it to rub­ble in 1941, so it had to go through a slow re­cov­ery.

Kingston upon Hull was seem­ingly des­tined to never bounce back, but it did to the point where it was named 2017’s UK City of Cul­ture. The dam­age it sus­tained dur­ing the war plus the come­back it has made could be used as a lazy metaphor, per­haps, for the up-and-down ca­reer of proud Hullse­nian Tommy Coyle, 24-4 (12).

Just like the city he rep­re­sents and loves, Coyle was left phys­i­cally de­stroyed and emo­tion­ally dis­traught when los­ing to Derry Mathews for the Com­mon­wealth light­weight ti­tle at Hull’s Craven Park Sta­dium in 2013. It was not a beat down, in fact it re­mains one of his best per­for­mances, yet the na­ture of the sick­en­ing 10th-round re­verse left him still crav­ing one of the more tra­di­tional ti­tles.

Granted, the 29-year-old has picked up IBF and WBC In­ter­na­tional light­weight straps dur­ing his ca­reer yet he al­ways dreamed of net­ting one of what he con­sid­ers the top three belts: Bri­tish, Euro­pean or Com­mon­wealth. He got his wish at the third time of ask­ing when stop­ping Sean “Masher” Dodd for the Com­mon­wealth ti­tle in six ear­lier this year. An ear­lier Bri­tish ti­tle tilt to Tyrone Nurse had ended in a de­ci­sion de­feat.

Of­ten seen as an ex­cit­ing nearly man, Coyle reached his per­sonal pin­na­cle then im­me­di­ately de­clared that he could walk away from the sport with money in his pocket, his var­i­ous business in­ter­ests ex­celling, and a smile on his face.

“I al­ways knew that I had the beat­ing of Dodd after watch­ing him against [Scotty] Car­dle,” Coyle told Box­ing News. “I had a great camp, was in a great place, and was very con­fi­dent. I re­alised that be­ing in Manch­ester cooped up in a ho­tel wasn’t me for. It works for me to work with [the Tommy Coyle Foun­da­tion’s Box­ing Academy Head Coach] Billy [Daw­son] in Hull then go down for tech­nique, game plan and spar­ring with [head coach] Jamie [Moore] and [his as­sis­tant] Nigel [Travis] on a Thurs­day and Fri­day.”

Should he take care of business State­side this Satur­day (see page 29) “Boom Boom” in­tends to squeeze in a few more fights be­fore con­cen­trat­ing on other pur­suits, for ex­am­ple he has a bud­ding bar chain called Bar­row Boys. Nonethe­less, and come what may, he is adamant that his fi­nal fight will take place in his beloved home­town.

“This city and its peo­ple have not just sup­ported me in vic­tory, they were there for me in their thou­sands after de­feats as well — I’ve al­ways be­lieved in my­self be­cause of that sup­port,” he de­clared. “I think that is also what the fans ap­pre­ci­ate. No mat­ter what hap­pens I al­ways give 110 per cent in that ring. I will al­ways go out on my shield.” ³

I WANT TO STAY SHARP, BRING MY KIDS UP AND READ THEM A BED­TIME STORY WITH­OUT SLURRING MY WORDS”

“The peo­ple of Hull are a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish, they al­most don’t mind a loser ev­ery now and again, so it is only right to do right by the city. I’ve got three fights max­i­mum left in me, two min­i­mum, and no mat­ter what, my last fight will be in Hull, whether it is in front of a hun­dred peo­ple or thou­sands. I owe it to the loyal fans who were turn­ing out when I was box­ing at the City Hall.”

This love of Hull ex­tends be­yond the link he has forged through fight­ing and en­ter­tain­ing the fans, he de­cided to put some­thing back into the city by open­ing the first Tommy Coyle Academy in 2014 be­fore launch­ing a sec­ond shortly after. The not­for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion is a source of pride for Coyle and the div­i­dends are the lives changed, new ca­reers launched, and the pride the fighter feels about the ven­ture.

“Kids want to come to the gym and be around — now how can I say this with­out sound­ing big-headed — the Tommy Coyle brand,” he said. “That at­tracts the kids in the lo­cal area. We have over 30 carded fight­ers at the minute and over 200 mem­bers. All kids un­der the age of 17 train for free, we don’t charge them a penny.”

There is an area in Hull dubbed Gip­syville, a non-pc term for the more mid­dle-class de­scrip­tion of what is a low-in­come, low-as­pi­ra­tion area. One of the Coyle Foun­da­tion’s suc­cess sto­ries hails from there and is due to make his pro de­but soon.

“Four or five years ago this kid was pinch­ing bikes, tak­ing cigs out of his dad’s to­bacco tin, and he had no real sense of di­rec­tion of pur­pose,” said Coyle. “He came to the Academy for some­thing to do, and he said: “It is f**king freez­ing out­side, I’m only here be­cause it is free”. I took him into the ring and felt that this kid had some­thing.”

“I wanted to im­prove minds and change lives,” he added. “Box­ing has been good to me, it has set me up in life. It gave me a place to be at half-six ev­ery night when I was a kid. If it wasn’t for that I’d prob­a­bly have been in the back of some ran­dom ware­house pinch­ing scrap me­tal to earn a quick buck. I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved away from box­ing with the next gen­er­a­tion.

“Peo­ple find this hard to be­lieve, but I’m not mo­ti­vated by fi­nan­cial suc­cess, it is all about legacy and what peo­ple will say about me when I’m gone. I’m killing those two birds with one stone this way.”

Coyle’s is not a tale of a kid turn­ing to crime or the usual stuff you read. Still, he did have one char­ac­ter flaw as a young­ster: he liked hit­ting peo­ple and had no com­punc­tion about do­ing it out­side of the ring be­fore dis­cov­er­ing his call­ing.

“I just loved hav­ing a fight. I had a bit of a chip on my shoul­der so if some­one said

I LOVED HAV­ING A FIGHT. IF SOME­ONE DID SOME­THING I DIDN’T LIKE, I WOULDN’T HAVE AN AR­GU­MENT I’D JUST GO STRAIGHT AT IT”

some­thing I didn’t like I wouldn’t have an ar­gu­ment with them, I’d just go straight at it. I’m not say­ing I’d have got into trou­ble. I wasn’t one of the bad­dest kids, so box­ing didn’t save me or any­thing like that. But it def­i­nitely gave me a place to be, a sense of pur­pose. A lot of lessons that I’ve learned in box­ing are the dis­ci­plines I’ve adapted to my business life as well.”

Man­age­ment of­ten in­volves a par­tial let­ting go of one’s ego. If you put peo­ple into place you should trust them to do their jobs, the old adage “Too many chefs spoil the broth” has been boiled down into a pithy sin­gle line: mi­cro­man­age­ment.

Coyle strives to avoid do­ing this by se­lect­ing peo­ple with the ex­per­tise to per­form a role and then sim­ply al­low­ing them to get on with it. These are skills that he feels are in­nate to him, ex­ten­sions of his per­son­al­ity that have dove­tailed into his life’s work.

“I don’t nec­es­sar­ily have a good business brain, I have a good work ethic and seem to at­tract good peo­ple,” he ex­plained. “I’m a bit of a tal­ent mag­net who at­tracts the right peo­ple. I come up with an idea and they de­velop it for me. I give them the room to work on it, the chance to ex­press their own iden­tity, and I don’t in­ter­fere too much. We’ve got a good business model. I’m cre­ative, have a vi­sion, know where I want to go and I know how to get there so have peo­ple who help me.

“We are all only good at a few things, so we should stick to what we are good at. If ev­ery­one does that within an or­gan­i­sa­tion you will only achieve good things. I’m a leader, I also know how peo­ple work. Some peo­ple re­act well to crit­i­cism, some pre­fer praise. I know how to deal with that.”

This abil­ity to let go should mean that these var­i­ous in­ter­ests con­tinue to grow apace even when the bright lights of box­ing no longer shine on him. “I hope so,” he said. “I was just mind­ful that I messed around in school so had no GCSES or Plan B. The out­side the ring stuff be­came more im­por­tant as I have my own fam­ily now, I have to pro­vide for them: put clothes on their backs, food in their bel­lies, and keep the house warm for them. “Box­ing has al­most been like a ve­hi­cle for me to push through my lo­cal busi­nesses while I am still rel­e­vant and can drive at­ten­tion to them, and it has worked — we are linked with peo­ple like Siemens now. Box­ing has been an ac­cel­er­a­tor for my business.” As we neared the end, ques­tions be­came more gen­eral and generic. You ex­pect that the old ch­est­nut “Who is your hero?” would throw up some­one like Sugar Ray Leonard or, given his business in­ter­ests, Lord Alan Sugar, yet Coyle’s in­spi­ra­tion hails from closer to home and can still be seen work­ing the fam­ily’s fruit and veg bar­row in the city cen­tre. “My dad is my best friend in the world, my hero, and I love him with all my heart — he is a spe­cial man,” he an­swered. “We will have the veg stand for­ever, it is what we know and love. My brother [Lewie] played for Leeds United, my other brother [Joe] is a pro­fes­sional golfer, so there is al­ways some­thing for my dad to be talk­ing to the cus­tomers about. “We had world-class par­ents who made every­thing pos­si­ble for us in sport. They’d spend their last penny on the lat­est foot­ball boots or box­ing gloves, they are good par­ents who made it all hap­pen. I want to do that for the lo­cal kids, for the fam­i­lies who have got three or four chil­dren and are strug­gling.” As for his own chil­dren, Coyle’s prin­ci­pal job is to en­sure that he gives them every­thing that they need to make the best pos­si­ble fist of life. “There is more to life than box­ing,” he said. “I want to stay sharp, bring my kids up, read a bed­time story to them with­out slurring my words, and I want to be able to make sound de­ci­sions in the board­room and class­room for the kids my Foun­da­tion helps out. “I have two boys who I need to show how to be proper young men so that they grow up the same way we did and are happy. They will even­tu­ally have to make their own de­ci­sions and make them­selves happy in life — I want to make sure that they are in a po­si­tion to do that.”

Pho­tos: AC­TION IM­AGES/AN­DREW COULDRIDGE

JUST CHAM­PION: Dodd is res­cued while Coyle cel­e­brates win­ning the Com­mon­wealth ti­tle

HAP­PI­NESS: Coyle knows what he needs to do

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