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Blood, sweat and whisky

Boxing is back in business in the most unlikely Manchester venue and fighting his way to the top is our new Ricky Hatton.

Published on August 31st 2006.

Blood, sweat and whisky

It’s fight night. The year 1960. The air is choking on testosterone and the taste of blood curdles in the back of the throat before any punches have even been thrown.

The bell sounds. Round 3. The audience rises to their feet and the half empty glasses of malt whisky begin to tremor. Shrewd business men, corrupt cops and bent gang leaders spur and heckle as the anticipation shoots from their mouths. Fear is weighed in each of the opponents’ eyes. There’s a hefty blow to the jaw, blood flies across the hall splattering spectators; the Midland Hotel is as alive with promise and perspiration…

Let’s just freeze frame right there. The Midland Hotel, you say? Manchester’s grande dame establishment of silver service and a pianist tinkering the ivories to make the bill more palatable? It’s enough to make your gran’s cream tea curdle.

But believe it or not boxing dinners are exactly what used to happen at the Midland Hotel back in the day and they’re punching their way back from darkest memory thanks to the Anglo-American Sporting Club.

The Anglo-American Sporting Club, headed by trainer and ex-boxer Wayne Barker, and promoter, Ian Robinson is a platform for hungry young men, trying to make their mark on the boxing world.

Wayne explains: “It’s a feeder for when the kids turn professional. The basics of it is that it’s giving young men an arena to showcase their talent. I’m not saying that I’m going to make kids into champions but from their point of view, regardless of the boxing - it’s to make them all winners in themselves.”

One such “kid” is Prince Aaron. He’s Aaron Jones, when he’s not clad in flapping shorts and boxing gloves, but a surname like Jones isn’t going to instil much confidence in you nor fear in your opponent. Wayne said: “I wanted to call him Prince Aaron of England but I though it was going too far.”

Prince Aaron, sounds like a racehorse and to be fair this 6’3’’, 11st 2lb, 17 year old has the gangly features of a thoroughbred colt – tall, long, rangey. Wayne says: “At this stage of the game it’s a bonus for him being that build because he’s tall and people find it very awkward to get to him.”

Young and raw he may be, but a pushover he is not. So far the kid is unbeaten in all his fights against opponents who are stronger, older and far more experienced and Wayne has big ambitions for his young protégée.

“I’ve had much more accomplished boxers training with me, people with faster hands, more maturity but I am amazed by his dedication. If I told him that if he put his hand in the fire, it would make him stronger faster, fitter, he would do it”.

“If I only achieved a British and European title championship contest for him, I would be disappointed. I think he will go all the way. That’s not me just trying to sell my kid. He’s a raw, raw novice but I think he will end up a world champion.”

Tickets are available for the Charity Boxing Gala Dinner on September 11, priced at £100 per person or £1000 for a table of ten. For enquiries email Gordo@manchesterconfidential.com

But Aaron isn’t just a fighter in the ring, he’s fought a lot of demons as well to get to where he is today. Aaron was brought to Wayne’s boxing club Fighting Fit in Droylesden, by a Youth Offending Team, who thought Wayne may be able to do something constructive with their young offenders. Aaron learned something about boxing, Wayne learned a lot about Aaron and the boy swapped fighting on the street to boxing in the ring.

The extremely polite and humble Aaron explains: “Before I started boxing, I was hanging out on the streets, robbing cars and getting into trouble. I ended up on a Youth Offending Programme and that’s when I was brought to Fighting Fit. Wayne had a look at me and said I could box a bit, had the right attitude to learn and took me in. It’s changed my life. I’ve got an aim and a goal. I want to be world champion.

A boxing gym isn’t the most obvious place to learn life skills, but that’s exactly what Aaron has had gently knocked into him whist under Wayne’s instruction.

According to Wayne: “I’ve got inside his head before girls or peers. I sponsor him, I supply his trainers, tracksuits. I teach him about life, about money, I’ve organised a bank account for him, which I put money into. If he wants to take money out I want to see it and check his statement every month.”

Aaron’s even completed a bricklaying course just in case he has to call time on his boxing career.

So Prince Aaron of Droylesden (does it get any more prestigious?) will spring into action and put on a show for his public at the next charity boxing gala dinner on September 11. An evening where boxing will be only part of the entertainment and ladies are allowed to breathe the same charged air as gents.

“Boxing has changed since I was competing in the 70s and 80s, everything was very male orientated. But we’re moving away from that into the world of corporate entertainment and hospitality. We’ve got opera singers, comedians, a charity auction, good food and good entertainment. Hopefully we’re looking at 12 shows a year.”

When Aaron absorbs through every sinew the challenges the Anglo- American Sporting Club throw at him, Wayne will move him on to greater things.

And when the Anglo-American Sporting Club becomes a distant memory of humble beginnings hopefully Aaron will be able to stand and say: “I can see further as I have been standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Vanessa Lees
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