Manch­ester box­ing stal­wart Brian Hughes is a foun­tain of knowl­edge

Boxing News - - Yesterday’s Heroes - Miles Tem­ple­ton Box­ing his­to­rian

IAM sorry to say that Manch­ester trainer Brian Hughes MBE is cur­rently strug­gling with his health. Brian will be known to many in the game for a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent rea­sons. I first came across the name when I took an in­ter­est in a se­ries of books he wrote about long-for­got­ten cham­pi­ons of the 1930s. Others will know him, of course, for the suc­cess he had with a string of top fight­ers, in­clud­ing Pat Bar­rett, Robin Reid, Michael Gomez and Michael Jen­nings.

To the many kids from the rough streets of in­ner Manch­ester, who never quite made it, but who tried, he will be best known as a box­ing coach, a fa­ther fig­ure and a lo­cal hero. Brian has al­ways been com­pletely com­mit­ted to the club he formed in the 1960s, Col­ly­hurst and Mos­ton Boys Club, and he gave a great deal of him­self to ev­ery­one who walked through its doors.

As a trainer, he comes from the old school. In a 1999 in­ter­view with Box­ing News, Brian re­called how he learnt the ropes in the gym from an old fighter called Fred Hamp­son. Fred had a hand­ful of con­tests in the early 1930s, with­out much suc­cess, but he be­came a very good trainer. Fred worked along­side Jack Bates, an­other Col­ly­hurst leg­end. Jack had 135 bouts in a ca­reer that lasted be­tween 1924 and 1932. Im­me­di­ately upon his re­tire­ment, he be­came a top-class coach and he trained the three Manch­ester greats, Johnny King, Jackie Brown and Jock Mcavoy, all of whom be­came cham­pi­ons. Brian wrote bi­ogra­phies on all three.

Bates died in 1962, but Brian re­mem­bered study­ing his meth­ods as a 13-year old. An­other Manch­ester in­flu­ence was Tommy Prof­fitt. Tommy is still with us to­day and he is a reg­u­lar at­tendee at Manch­ester EBA meet­ings. He boxed in the 1948 Olympics and he be­came the No. 1 con­tender for the British ban­tamweight ti­tle. He helped Brian in the early days with the club.

It took Brian quite a few years to be­come es­tab­lished as a top pro­fes­sional coach. His early fight­ers in­cluded Kenny Web­ber, Ed­die Smith and Lance Williams. His first ma­jor suc­cess came with “Black Flash” Bar­rett, who he guided to British and Eu­ro­pean ti­tle glory. By the mid1990s, Manch­ester had re­gained its for­mer pres­tige as a fight city of out­stand­ing im­por­tance, and Brian played a ma­jor part in this.

Gomez, Jen­nings, Reid, An­thony Far­nell, Gary Lock­ett and Thomas Mc­donough were all trained by Brian and all of them were top class. Af­ter this, his in­volve­ment con­tin­ued with Scott Quigg, Lyn­don Arthur and Rees Roberts. He also as­sisted with the early devel­op­ment of Tyson Fury, hav­ing also coached his fa­ther, Gypsy Johnny, back in the 1980s. Tyson has re­ferred to Brian as “the Cus D’amato of British box­ing.” What a com­pli­ment that is.

Brian has al­ways treated his in­volve­ment with box­ing as a ca­reer, and he has con­sis­tently sought out the best in or­der to help him to be­come the best. In the early days, he asked ex-british wel­ter­weight cham­pion Ed­die Thomas, an es­tab­lished man­ager, pro­moter and trainer, to teach him how to prop­erly tape hands and to deal with cuts. Ed­die knew a thing or two about the game and it says a lot about Brian that he trav­elled reg­u­larly to Merthyr to pick his brains.

Brian spent time in the Kronk Gym with Emanuel Stew­ard in Detroit in the early ‘90s and he had An­gelo Dundee over to his own set-up in Col­ly­hurst some years later. Both of these Amer­i­cans, among the best train­ers of all time, spoke highly of him. Dundee stated that he couldn’t do what Brian did, tak­ing raw kids off the street and turn­ing them into cham­pi­ons, as “the ones I get are all Golden Gloves or Olympic cham­pi­ons.” Stew­ard went so far as to of­fer Brian a job.

His last­ing legacy is his abil­ity to trans­fer his train­ing skills to the fight­ers he worked with. Look how many of them are now es­tab­lished train­ers them­selves – Bar­rett, Far­nell, Lock­ett and Mc­donough. The old tricks that Bates taught in the 1930s are now be­ing passed on to Manch­ester’s cur­rent crop of fight­ers 80 years later.


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