23 October 2008 – by Steve Wellings
For five years Lisburn ABC has sat in the heart of the Tonagh estate offering a home to promising pugilists, keep-fit enthusiasts and bored local youngsters. Better to have them inside channeling their copious aggression there, than hanging around on the street corners.
The first noticeable point inside the gym is the decent size and space that allows the regulars, of all age and gender, to happily co-exist and go about their business. The bags are pounding all around and the centrally located ring is in constant use, mainly for pad work.
Former Olympian John Rodgers has been involved with Lisburn club for nearly 50 years. The veteran reached the third round of the Munich games in 1972, fighting at welterweight, making a total of 40 appearances for Ireland and 60 for Ulster. Rodgers oversees matters at the club and remains active on an almost daily basis as I ask him if he ever turned pro. He said he did, in 1969, but the Troubles soon put paid to that idea.
Rodgers is joined by fellow trainers Noel Reynolds and David Bisby, who alongside gym manager (and my first point of contact) Jim Russell, give up their own time to keep things running smoothly.
There are about 25 lads that turn up regularly, with 12 competitive, explains Russell. We run from 7-8.30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with 6.30-7.15 the time for juniors [9-11 years] plus we do Boxercise.
I have been involved since 1987 and have seen some decent fighters come and go in that time.
Arguably the best of the current crop bantamweight Marty Fraser – was away in Spain during my visit. Current domestic heavyweight contender Scott Belshaw once trained at the club and they were rocked by the sudden death of veteran coach Paddy Burns, earlier in the year.
Holding regular club nights and acting as a vital part of the local community, Lisburn ABC continues to thrive and gain new members who want to keep fit or put their skills to the test.