Seven nights a week, in a village club, there are people grunting, taking aim and punching.
Sweat gobbets fly, muscles are pushed and minds are trained to focus.
This is boxing, and amateur boxing is one of the first steps anyone takes to a lifelong relationship with the sport.
In a building near Titchfield Recreation Ground, Titchfield Amateur Boxing Club has been entwined with the village’s history for over 50 years.
The club has grown over the years, and after a cash boost from the council last year, it has expanded in size.
As men and boys do laps of the club to the shouts of an enthusiast coach, I speak to one of the men behind the club’s success. We chat during one of their nightly coaching sessions about how he got involved with the club and where he sees the club’s future.
‘Titchfield Amateur Boxing Club was going long before I joined it,’ says Ken Charman.
Modest Ken has been involved with the club for over 40 years. He was recently recognised by the council who made him a Citizen of Honour for his ongoing commitment to the club, and at 85 years old there’s no sign of Ken slowing down and taking a gentle retirement – he prefers it in the club.
With marks from the boxing gloves on his shirt and a steady stream of boys paying him their entry fees, Ken explains, ‘The primary reason I got into Titchfield Amateur Boxing Club was on the surface of it, it was going to close.
‘My wife was working with somebody who was linked to the community centre. She mentioned to her that this club was going to close and my wife said “well, that’s interesting, Ken likes boxing”.
‘The next day there was a delegation of people begging and pleading for me to get involved so I did. My interest was in boxing but certainly it was no real big deal for me to get involved, but that was 40 years ago.
‘I was a regular visitor to the shows but up to that time I had really no involvement. They wanted a competition secretary to put on the shows for them. They were worried they couldn’t continue. I then stepped in, became the secretary and organised the shows for them.
‘I suppose I have never really kept chapter and verse of what’s gone on, it’s only now when I look back I can see the big events. The biggie is the dinner show that goes on every November at the Portsmouth Guildhall. It’s the one that raises the funds, which in turn provides the club for us.’
The club, on Mill Lane, has around 60 members who regularly attend.
Ken says, ‘We are slightly either side of the limits of boxing. Boys cannot start boxing until they are 11 years of age. Boys don’t walk into the club and start boxing straight away. They have to train.
‘I have phone calls every week from parents asking if their son can come along and when I ask how old, they say he is six or seven, but that’s too young. The boys here start training around nine or 10, then they start boxing at 11, and then they have to finish on their 34th birthday.’
Ken says that seeing the kids come through the club and progress on to boxing careers gives him a great sense of pride.
‘Now we are getting second and third generations in. This is one of the real sort of delights of amateur boxing. I get youngsters coming up to me asking “was my daddy really a good boxer?”, now I have boys coming up to me asking “was my granddaddy a good boxer?”.’
He also warned that the club is not a keep-fit club, that it is the passion for boxing that drives the club members.
‘We are a boxing club, if you come into the club, then you will be boxing. It is not a leisure centre or a gym, it’s about the boxing.’
And what about the boys who find themselves in the ring opposite an opponent but lacking the courage to strike out?
Ken says, ‘It’s a natural phenomenon – some boys are totally ready for it, get in the ring and then find they are not ready. There can be a trauma there, you have to understand when the mind is right. We do not take a boy and say “you are boxing tomorrow”. The average person takes about two years before they enter the ring and actually box.
‘We insist that parents do not stay, what we ask is that they bring their child to us, make sure they are comfortable and then leave them with us. It is almost impossible to train a child when mum or dad is watching, they are totally different people when they are not in front of their parents. They wouldn’t come back if they didn’t like it, but they do. They absolutely love it.’
After decades of bringing boxing to Titchfield, the village is a special part of the club’s history.
Ken says, ‘This place is part of Titchfield’s heritage. It’s part of Titchfield’s history. We like to think we are part and parcel of the community. Whatever happens to this club it will always be known as Titchfield Amateur Boxing Club, that’s what it is.’
If you would like to join Titchfield Amateur Boxing Club, contact Ken on 01489 581623.
Titchfield Amateur Boxing Club will be holding its annual dinner and boxing show at Portsmouth Guildhall on Friday, November 8.
It will be an evening of amateur boxing under ABA permit, featuring Titchfield Select versus Royal Navy Select. Boxing starts at 9pm.
Spectator tickets are available on the door for £10.
Tables of 10 for a sit-down meal are available. Email email@example.com for more details.
A cash injection from Fareham Borough Council has meant the club has been able to welcome female and disabled boxers for the first time.
It was given £25,000 last year and built new changing rooms, which are open. Now it is just missing people to use them.
Ken says, ‘The biggest challenge, in my view, is that a centre like this, we should have more diversity.
‘My concern is what we have got, as good as it is, it’s totally male. It is also totally able-bodied.
‘What we are looking for is to spread our involvement with the community. It is a big challenge, but we certainly would like girls to walk through that door now we have now got the facilities to accommodate them.’
Ken says he is open to ideas about how the space could be used during the day time too.
‘My big challenge is to get a more suitable use of the gymnasium in the day.
‘It’s not very straight forward but I feel we can help children with disabilities. We are not medical people, but we have got the facilities and that’s what we are offering.
‘We would love to help but to do that we need some help too.
‘The club is open seven nights a week, but it could be open seven days a week too.
‘That’s where the opportunity is.’