Boxing’s next generation ready for ultimate level

Moneyfields' Sid Williams
Moneyfields' Sid Williams
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Tony Oakey remains Portsmouth’s most famous boxing son.

The Leigh Park Warrior gave the city some of its best sporting moments in recent history on the way to string of dramatic title successes.

It seems like yesterday but it’s been three years now since the light-heavyweight hung up his gloves.

Ever since, the local professional scene has been carried by a group of honest boxers who have kept the sport bubbling along but failed to reach anywhere near Oakey’s unprecedented highs.

But in the amateur game a revolution has been stirring.

And Portsmouth is now back in the boxing big time thanks to Ebonie Jones and Sid Williams.

The teenage pair have taken their prodigious talent to the world stage as their stunning emergence continues.

Moneyfields’ Williams is currently in Kiev competing at the AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships.

And Heart of Portsmouth’s Jones is celebrating her selection for the female world competition in Bulgaria, which begins next week.

That’s after already tasting Euro glory in July at the EU Championships, with a victory which is believed to have made the 15-year-old the youngest English female to have tasted European success.

Jones also has a national title in the bag this year as she gears up for competition.

The Charter Academy student travelled to Hungary to win the Euro title, with the likes of Olympic gold medallist Nicola Adams in the same squad.

The bubbly Drayton girl admitted to being in awe of Adams, who captured the hearts of the nation at the London Olympics last year.

Yesterday, that all had to go out of the window, however, as Jones travelled to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

The reason for that 500-mile round trip was to pick up six rounds of sparring – with a certain Nicola Adams.

Competing with the very, very best is now what Jones needs, despite her tender years.

And treading the same path as the icon who yesterday stood across the ring from her is her ambition.

No doubt, Williams harbours similarly lofty ambitions.

His hard graft has taken him to the final of the Junior ABA Championships and a silver medal at the Tri-Nation Championships, as he moved on to the international stage.

With Williams doing plenty of his training at pro trainer Michael Ballingall’s new gym in Fratton, no doubt there are beady eyes on him when it comes to the future.

Ballingall dreams of the day he will unearth another Oakey.

That’s a lot to hope for but the city is increasingly well prepared to do that thanks to its flourishing amateur scene.

Chris Bessey remains the local trailblazer there after picking up a phenomenal six national titles and Commonwealth Games gold in the 90s.

But there have been a fair few others who have decorated themselves and the area they represent with national honours.

North End’s Jack Stringer being one of them recently. And Greg Bridet is the latest to join them at senior level after winning the ABA title in April.

The impetus there now is that local boxing owes everything to those who dedicate their time and energy to the sport.

Heart of Portsmouth have established themselves as a boxing powerhouse at national level.

The facilities they have on offer are fit for the pro game – and their title roster reflects that.

Elsewhere, coaches and administrators dedicate hour after hour of their time to the sport in more humble surroundings.

Williams does his work at a spit-and-sawdust sweat house in Copnor, for example, with coaches who have to fit in their coaching with paying the bills.

These trainers and administrators, like in most sports at grass-roots level, often receive little thanks for their efforts.

But they are the very same people who are now smoothing rough diamonds like Jones and Williams into world-class performers.

We thank them for breeding the next generation of talents who are now ready to deliver at the ultimate level.