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Boxing community pays tribute to 'gentleman' of the sport, Jim Evans, who has died

Jim Evans, with Reading heayweight Michael Sprott.


Members of the boxing world have taken time this week to pay tribute to a gentleman of the sport, Maidenhead’s trainer and promoter Jim Evans, who has died at the age of 85.

Jim was a popular and well-known figure in the boxing community, having coached a stable of fighters at his gym in the Windsor Road from the turn of the century, but his love of Boxing began as a fighter growing up in London and he went on to train fighters, enjoying some notable successes along the way.

After establishing his gym in Maidenhead, Jim was in Michael Sprott’s corner when he knocked out Audley Harrison in the much-hyped British Heavyweight clash in 2007, while in the late 1990s he also trained Geoff McCreesh to the British Welterweight championship, a belt he defended three times. There were various other title victories, with Bracknell’s Keith Marner claiming the Southern Area Title belt. Latterly, Jim also helped train and promote the likes of Slough’s John ‘The Don’ Brennan.

“What a nice guy he was and what a scholar of a gentleman,” Brennan said this week. “I started my pro career under Jim’s guidance, and even when I wasn’t managed by Jim I used to train quite regularly at his gym. Even when he wasn’t my manager, he would arrange my MRI scans, my medicals, he was just top drawer.

“The best thing about Jim was that he was a straight runner, he was so sincere when he said things, you knew them to be true.

“He also never pulled his punches, if he thought you were flat footed you knew it wasn’t pie in the sky and you’d have to work on it.”

Another local fighter and trainer, Chris McDonagh, added: “Jim was a great mentor, a great friend. He always helped others and the sport of boxing before himself.”

Jim was born in the Lion and Lamb pub in Euston on July 8, 1935, the second of five children who lived in a house that was ‘bombed out’ twice during the Second World War blitz.

He and his siblings were evacuated to their grandparents’ farm in Cumberland and Jim got his first taste of boxing after the war when he joined the Gainsford Boxing Club in Covent Garden, making it to the schoolboys final.

He later joined the Merchant Navy and was stationed in Siberia, Uganda, Kenya and all over Africa, but he was never too long out of the ring, fighting in tournaments throughout his Navy career.

On his return he fought for the St Pancreas Boxing Club and retired having had 246 fights at the age of 29. He met his wife, Georgina, in 1960 and they married in 1963 after moving to Maidenhead.

He worked with his brother for an industrial heating business, but he soon found a place to pass on his boxing expertise, an amateur club run by ex-professional Kevin Duffy behind the Stag & Hounds pub in Pinkneys Green. Together they formed their own club in the Norden Road and by the 1980s he was training fighters such as Dave Moore, Andy Sinclair and Roy Horne and promoting shows at the Magnet Leisure Centre. He also promoted several shows in London and part-promoted events in Monte Carlo and America.

In 1999 he was awarded a lifetime achievement award for his services to boxing by the British Boxing Board of Control and last year received the WBC Medal of Honour and certificate for lifetime achievement.

His son Justin, who had a creditable boxing record himself, remembered his father with great affection this week.

“He was a boxing man through and through, from his childhood through to the present day,” he said. “He fought, first as an amateur and then he turned pro. He was also heavily involved in promoting and training, but for the past couple of years ill health was kicking in and he was slowing things down on the boxing side of it. The gym closed down when he lost my mum four years ago. That hit him hard, and he did back away from the sport a little bit, but he still very much kept in touch with what was going on.

“He built the gym in his garden, nearly 20 years ago, and it was very busy a lot of the time. There was always plenty of hustle and bustle there, but he visited fighters in other gyms and kept his finger on the pulse.

“My brother and I both boxed as well. He was great with us. He did have a lot of patience. He was willing to keep trying until things were right, rather than just accept that things were going nowhere. He’d try his best to get the most from someone and, if he couldn’t, he’d say I think we’ve done enough, I can do no more. But he would stick with fighters as best he could.

“Any youngster coming through, he’d build them up from scratch. He loved taking someone who wasn’t really well known, and maybe didn’t have a particularly glamorous amateur career and he’d help them achieve something in the professional ranks.

“He was just a very patient and kind man. He didn’t want to upset anyone and would give his time freely, that’s just the way he was.”

A couple of justgiving pages have been set up in Jim’s memory. The first for the Prostate Cancer UK charity and the second for the Ringside Charitable Trust for ex-fighters. Jim passed away on February 27 after suffering with Prostate cancer.

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