We here at British Boxing Blog continue our Gym Visits feature by taking a trip to North East champion trainer, Mal Gates’ gym in South Shields.
A balmy September night sees the British Boxing Blog team make the relatively short trip to South Shields to spend a night at Mal Gates’ gym, situated at the Harton & Westoe Miners Welfare complex.
To our North East followers, Mal should need very little introduction. However for those who aren’t too familiar with his work, it may be not our place to say, but there is a strong case to be made for Mal to be considered the North East’s most successful boxing trainer of recent years having produced several champions out of his gym. Mal has a small, close knit stable of four fighters boxing out of his pro-box stable and has led two of them; Anthony Nelson and Lee Mould, to several titles in the past few years.
After being greeted by a firm handshake from Mal and a splendid cup of coffee from his assistant, and former Northern Area champion and European title challenger, Paul Charters, we were given a warm welcome and immediately made to feel at home in our surroundings as we settled down to observe the lads at work.
As we walk in to the gym, mid training session, we find two of Mal’s stable of four fighters hard at work.
Prospect Paul Gidney, who has recently returned to training following a family illness, was undergoing an intensive circuit training session under the supervision of Charters, whereas Welterweight prospect Tom Whitfield, in the thick of his training camp ahead of his Northern Area title shot (October 8th versus Daniel Cope) took to the ring to work the pads with Gates.
What immediately strikes you about the gym is the close knit relationship between trainer and fighters. Gates is fiercely loyal towards his charges and cares for them as both a trainer and as a friend. He clearly has their best interests at heart, and strives to attain the best opportunities and deals for his lads.
The pride Mal has in his lad’s careers is evident from speaking to him. He speaks in glowing terms of Paul Gidney, who he described as a “blank canvas” with very little amateur experience when he initially came to his gym with the hard work and dedication of the pair of them, combined with Gidney’s willingness to learn, has seen him develop into a 2-0 professional boxer who looked very impressive on his last outing when convincingly despatching Phil Hervey on points in Gateshead.
Knowing the nature of the man and the nature of the gym, it means as much for Mal to lead Paul Gidney to a victory in a four round contest, as it does to lead Anthony Nelson to the Commonwealth title.
The aforementioned close knit atmosphere in the gym makes for a light hearted atmosphere at times, with the banter flowing between the lads (Whitfield’s new haircut was being mocked on several occasions), however when it’s time to get serious and down to work – they work.
The respect Mal has for his fighters is mirrored by the respect they have for him, they listen intently to his every word when training under his watchful eye.
Whitfield in particular was putting in the hard yards, having finished his pad work and moving on to some weight based exercises and pull ups, enough to make this writer wince at the sheer thought of it. It has to be said that he looked in superb shape and his camp seems to be going seamlessly, having fully recovered from the fractured jaw he suffered earlier this year. The main strength of Whitfield has always been his stamina and his engine and this is evident here as he goes from intensive exercise to intensive exercise without looking remotely out of breath and without a hair out of place.
Half way through the session, we were joined by a familiar face – former Commonwealth Super Flyweight champion and star pupil of the Gates Gym, Anthony Nelson enthusiastically bounded into the gym.
Not currently in training for any upcoming bouts, having took time out since his cruel defeat in the British Fight of The Year bout against Jamie Conlan, Nelson popped in for a chat and to support Tom Whitfield with his session.
The respect between fighter and trainer was again apparent as Nelson bounced up to the ring where Mal and Tom were going through drills on the pads and shared a hug with Gates, leading Mal to proclaim “I love that kid me!”
After exchanging pleasantries with the faces in the gym, the ever popular Nelson joined us for a chat. I say a chat, but what I really mean is Anthony talked and we listened. God that boy can talk.
And a fascinating interviewee he is; a local boy with a superb talent, we covered many subjects that encapsulated the highs and lows of professional boxing in this country; the pride yet despair of the Conlan fight, the lack of opportunities for a rematch, the loss of sponsorship after the fight, broken promises from national promoters, taking time away from the sport to provide for his family, but also the determination to return to the ring at the top level.
The enthusiasm of ‘Nella’ is infectious and he’s a truly genuine lad who lives on breathes the sport and has a genuine desire to make the most of his talent and succeed. But on the other hand, he’s a proud family man and as the main breadwinner for his young family he his main responsibility is to provide for them. Unfortunately at the minute that means no fights are on the horizon as he knuckles down to the day to day grind to make a living.
It’s hard not to share Anthony’s frustration when it comes to not being signed by the Matchroom’s or the MGM’s or the Queensbury Promotions of this world and it’s certainly sad that a fighter of his calibre isn’t afforded the same opportunities as other lesser fighters receive. One this is for certain though, both Nella and Mal can be proud of what they have achieved so far, English and Commonwealth titles for the South Shields dream team came through hard work, dedication and talent alone, and we can be certain, we haven’t seen the last of Nelson yet. He’ll be back.
As Nelson winds down, and Messrs Gates and Charters have finished putting Gidney and Whitfield through their paces, we shake hands, pose for a few photos and say our goodbyes, we leave with nothing other than positive impressions of the Gates gym, those who train there and those who run it.
It’s a superb set up of which South Shields and the North East can be proud of. It’s a gym of champions whose fighters talents have been nurtured, protected and unleashed when the time is right and the success has been solely down to the fighters and the trainer, the effort they put in and the talent they have. There is no big money on show here, that is not what they are about, but there is plenty of enthusiasm and talent, combined with a desire to look after and respect one another.
Mal Gates is one of the most sincere fighting men we have had the pleasure to meet since the inception of British Boxing Blog, and one thing is for certain, we wouldn’t put it past him having another champion in the gym in the shape of Tom Whitfield come October 8th.