June 2023

Nostalgic Masterclass

June 2023 <h2>Nostalgic Masterclass</h2>

Stable of Champions

If you think The Repton Boxing Club is just another gym, you’d be vastly mistaken. A parallel comparison is going to your favourite pub, café or restaurant, in so much as they are just rooms until people walk in and create the atmosphere. Then, beyond the atmosphere and people, the offering from the establishment needs to be of a high enough quality to generate your interest for a repeat visit. Finally and most importantly, the element which speaks volumes is longevity. Take a trip down to The Repton and you’ll soon understand why it excels in all of the above.

Nestled into the heart of Bethnal Green and considered to be England’s oldest boxing club The Repton was a gem in the East End’s rough, back at the time of its founding in 1884. Set up by Repton College in Derbyshire, the intention was to establish the club as a mission for underprivileged boys in and around the Bethnal Green area, providing a number of activities including acting and boxing in an area that was notoriously tough and where money was very scarce. After Repton College withdrew their support in 1971, the club operated purely as a boxing club and since that time, thousands have proudly donned the gloves in the Repton colours, leaving behind a very respected fistic alumni.

Located on a corner of an old Victorian bath house on Cheshire Street, as you walk up to the doors of the entrance, you’ll be greeted by a sign of ‘Repton Boxing Club, Est: 1884,’….and underneath in larger type, ‘The Gary Barker Gymnasium,’ which pays tribute to the late and vastly talented amateur boxer, who sadly passed away in car crash in 2006.

The site is home to a long list of British boxing greats including Gary’s brother, Darren Barker, plus some of Britain’s finest pugilists such as Maurice Hope, Tony Cesay, Audley Harrison and John H Stracey. Despite the passing of legendary trainer Tony burns in 2021, the club continues to create more champions and Olympic medallists to its 500 strong list of exemplary individuals.

On entering The Repton, you’ll see the club’s highly appropriate adage of ‘Non Viscara, Non Gloria,’ which translates to ‘No Guts, No Glory,’ and is acknowledged with a nod by each and every person who walks in, old and new. The décor hasn’t changed in 50 years and if you feel like you’ve mistakenly walked onto a film set, don’t, because it’s been the backdrop for countless movies, including Guy Ritchie’s, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels


HERITAGE EPITOMISED

When Mark and Jimmy Tibbs walked through the doors of The Repton in February 2023 for the ‘Tibbs’ range photoshoot, they brought with them boxing heritage dating back seven decades.

Jimmy started his journey at the age of 11 out of West Ham Boxing Club in 1957 and went on to boast an amateur record of almost 80 fights, only losing twice. At the age of 19, three months after turning professional, he sparred The Greatest, Muhammad Ali at White City Army Barracks, putting the champ on the canvas at a beautifully staged event which made front page headlines in the New York Times.

Two weeks later, in his fifth pro outing Jimmy fought on the Ali versus Cooper undercard at the old Arsenal Football stadium in Highbury, twice climbing up off the canvas in the opening round, only to knock out his opponent, Tom Calderwood in the second stanza.


After 17 victories, two draws and only one defeat, Jimmy’s professional career was on a promising trajectory (17-2-1) and a British title shot beckoned. Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances his career was cut short at the age of 23.

Thankfully, all was not lost when infamous boxing trainer Terry Lawless called him up in 1981 to look after his gym of fighters whilst he had to take care of business in America for a few weeks.

Jimmy reluctantly agreed to train the fighters due to never having trained pros in his life, however, he took on the task and, on his return Lawless asked Jimmy to be his principle trainer.

Some of the fighters of note in the gym at that time included Charlie Magri, Frank Bruno and Lloyd Honeyghan, to mention a few. Over the next 35 years, Tibbs went on to train a plethora of champions at all levels including Nigel Benn, Chris Pyatt, Jim McDonell, Barry McGuigan, Kevin Mitchell and Billy Joe Saunders.

Esteemed boxing trainer Mark Tibbs, followed in his father’s footsteps with a very similar professional (22-2-1) record however, on entering The Repton, he was asked, ‘How many amateur fights did you have for this club?’ His response was, ‘I think about 80.’

The vagueness of his response emanated from a lack of hard evidence……which soon changed in a warming moment when old Repton friend and fighter, Wendell Henry appeared with Mark’s old Medical Card.

After examining the long-lost gem, it turns out Mark had competed in over 90 bouts.



THE SHOOT

In addition to Mark and Jimmy donning the ‘Tibbs’ range, current day flagbearers included undefeated prospects, middleweight Joel Bartell and light heavyweight, Johnny Hedges, both trained under the auspices of Mark Tibbs and watchful eyes of father, Jimmy.

With the scene set and the cameras ready to roll, Bartell and Hedges engaged in some light sparring, while Mark leant over the green and gold ropes barking commands at his charges. ‘Work the body Joel,’…….’The jab Johnny, the jab,’…. ‘Head movement, the both of ya.’

As the iconic grey sleeveless hoodies started to develop hard earned sweat patches, neither fighter was given a break in between sparring. Standing at 6ft 6 inches, Hedges was handed a vintage leather rope, obviously intended for someone around five inches shorter.

Undeterred by the length differential, Johnny had the old rope whistling through the air as he performed cross jumps and double skips, while the cameras clicked incessantly, capturing Hedges recreating how so many fighters of bygone eras trained.

In the meantime, Mark Tibbs, decked out in the BVB Sport range was holding the heavy bag as Bartell unloaded body shot after body shot, with each punch forcing beads of sweat to come off his brow.

Above him on the worn limestone brick wall stood photos of past champions, looking down with a nod of approval as his navy blue Tibbs T shirt stuck to his chiselled torso.

As The Repton prepared for the next cohort of champions to walk through the doors for training, the photoshoot came to an end. As the BVB fraternity walked out, each and every one took a final breath of the sweat stenched surroundings and once again, the nod of approval on passing the hallowed sign, ‘No Guts, No Glory.’




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