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50 years of boxing clever for Jelley
MICK Jelley has dedicated a lifetime training amateur boxers in the Bury area, including former world champion Amir Khan. Nick Jackson met the Bury ABC coach, who talked about his love of the sport .
WHEN Amir Khan burst on to the world boxing scene as an Olympic silver medallist in Athens eight years ago, his then-trainer Mick Jelley became the reluctant focus of national media attention.
The 68-year-old boss of Bury ABC had stumbled across a prodigy he now describes as his “Red Rum” – after the legendary three-time Grand National winning horse – a talent which comes along perhaps once every 100 years.
But the furore which now surrounds the 26-year-old former world champion Khan, and the glamour that goes with it, is like water off a duck’s back to Jelley who continues to dedicate all his spare time and – over a 50-year period – thousands of pounds of his own money nurturing the boxing skills of numerous youngsters who have come knocking on his door. It was 1962 when Jelley took over Bury ABC from his father Pop Jelley, who founded the gym in the garage attached to his Scholes Street, Elton, house in 1936.
The youngest of six children by 10 years, Jelley boxed briefly as an 18-year-old like his three older brothers, but he soon turned his attention to helping his father mentor and train the lads coming through the door.
Over the 76 years of its existence, Bury ABC has operated from at least 15 locations, including 25 years at Bury YMCA, a spell at the now defunct Bury Lads Club and the Wellington pub in Bolton Road, Bury.
ABC’s current location is at the Seedfield Centre where up to 35 local lads are accommodated by Jelley and his team of coaches for £1 a night.
“I’ve always said, if I’d been paid an hourly rate for what I’ve done in this sport, I’d be a millionaire, maybe a double millionaire,” said Jelley, who worked at Transparent Paper Mill, at Heap Bridge, for 43 years.
“I’ve taken days off work, days off unpaid, taking lads to boxing shows. But if you’re fisherman, you go and buy your bait and you’ve got to drive to the place where you want to fish and it costs you money. It’s my hobby.”
Some hobby. Jelley’s reputation as a top coach stretches the length of the country. He frequently gets calls from youngsters in London wanting to relocate in the north and benefit from his advice.
And it’s not just the Amir factor which attracts the attention, according to Jelley. Bury ABC’s reputation goes much deeper than that.
“Amir is only one element,” said Jelley. “Boxing has been going on in Bury for 76 years and it will be going on for another 76 years.
“Amir has only been around for eight years. My father and I have been producing successful young boxers for years. “Amir was the Red Rum – end of story. It could be another 100 years before you get another one. It’s pot luck. He had all the right attributes and attitude, and so did his parents, which is something that can’t be underestimated.”
Regardless of Jelley’s confidence in his gym’s capacity to stand on its own two feet, without the Khan factor, the coach has an enduring friendship with Amir and his dad Shah.
“The one thing I’ll say about Amir and his family is that they’ve always been loyal,” said Jelley.
“Some of my other lads and their families have done things behind my back. To be fair, it’s not just the lads, it’s the parents – they don’t listen.
“I say to every lad ‘listen to people who can put you on the right track’. But some think they know better than you.
“Amir’s dad has invited me to every fight he’s ever had. When I had Amir here, Shah used to say ‘whatever you say goes’. He never used to butt in because Shah knew I was looking after his lad and Shah will tell any parent ‘if you want someone to look after your lads, there’s nobody better than this gentleman here, as long as you do what he says’.”