“Everyone was together”: remembering boxing at East Ham Working Mens Club

PUBLISHED: 14:00 16 February 2019

David Launder. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.

David Launder. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.

Ellie Hoskins Photographer

Upstairs at East Ham Working Mens Club, which is celebrating its 130th birthday this year, David Launder, 51, coached in the boxing ring.

The East Ham Working Men's ClubThe East Ham Working Men's Club

David grew up across the road from the club. He started coaching there in 1993 because his dad was a fighter.

Launder senior fought 113 bouts. Though David never got to see him fight (David was a child at the time), he is sure of his father’s quality in his representing the legendary Repton Boxing Club in Spitalfields.

For his own fights, the one that sticks with him is the first, the one where he “stopped” a man in the first round. But he’s keen to keep the attention off himself, reminiscing: “The main thing is we had a club that had everyone from this area, we had everyone.

“We had travellers, Asians, Muslim kids.

The upstairs floor where the boxers used to trade blows in East Ham's boxing club. Picture: Ellie Hoskins.The upstairs floor where the boxers used to trade blows in East Ham's boxing club. Picture: Ellie Hoskins.

“Everyone was together, it was really good. That sticks in my mind.”

When one of the fighters revealed his uncle, Sandy Rice, ran Bangor Abbey Boxing Academy in Northern Ireland, it began a partnership that lasted more than 10 years. Sandy still coaches at the academy.

They took 12 fighters on their first trip.

“It was when the Troubles were on in ’96, the first time we went out there.

The East Ham Working Men's ClubThe East Ham Working Men's Club

“The first year, it was unknown. Everyone was saying to us: ‘You shouldn’t do it because there are the Troubles out there, because of how dangerous it can be.’

“But we were told it’d be okay and the academy looked after us really well.”

Jamie Rice, the son of Sandy, said there was a feeling of family between the clubs, and was something that they hadn’t found since.

It was a good time for our clubs. It was a good thing for our club because young kids were getting the chance to go down to London, which a lot of them wouldn’t have been able to do other than with the boxing club,” he said.

“It’s created friendships that have lasted over 23 years.”

Eventually, different uses for the space meant closure for the club.

David said: “It was really hard, because it isn’t like a gym, with a gym it’s all up, you’ve got your bags hanging up, and you’ve got your ring.

On Monday, they would put up the ring and all the bags, only to take them down the same Thursday.

“It just became too much.”

When you ask him who the best were, he says: “Daniel Sohi sticks out for me. When I first started with him, he was really good. We had Michael Corcoran, a traveller kid, really good. Good kids.”

“You don’t pick and choose who comes. They just turn up because they want to box. Real good kids, all together.”

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