Bunce Diaries: A new year in an old place

Bunce Diaries | Issue | Premium | 11 hours ago

Steve Bunce on the lessons to learn in the storied walls of All Stars gym

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IT feels like the eternal smiling spirit of Mr
Akay still walks the stairs, ring and the floor at the old church in Harrow Road
where the club he had to build from ignorance opened its doors for another
year. He is not the only dearly departed boxing soul in the hundreds of
pictures on the walls at the All Stars gym.

In one faded and curling colour photograph there
is Akay Isola, hand on the shoulder of a fighter that nobody in the gym can
remember. Chip and Colin, with me for the wander along the walls, both shake
their heads. The kid is beaming, glorious in the All Stars red strip, a 10-inch
plastic gold trophy gripped by the red gloves he is still wearing. No fancy
shorts, boots or vest – kit straight out of the club’s travel bag, a night
straight from the eighties. There are dozens like that, real pictures of boxing
at a level that is too easily ignored or lost.

There is even a picture of Akay without his
obligatory baseball cap, dressed all in white like a trainer from the fifties,
leaving the ring as his middleweight Tyrone Forbes stands up. I know Akay and
it looks like Forbes has just had a bollocking, perhaps been told that winning
the next round is not enough, perhaps told that he has to stop his opponent.
Sure, it’s old, blurred by grime, but it is Akay and the unmistakeable face of
Forbes. It could be the divisional championships that year, possibly a hall in
Tottenham, the year being 1983 and it being ‘that’ year because Forbes was,
from nowhere, Akay’s first ABA champion. It was big news in our tiny amateur
boxing universe.

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