Now based in Southsea, boxing champion and esteemed coach and mentor, Quinton ‘Q’ Shillingford MBE was born in 1967, in Paddington.
‘In the ’80s it was either sink or swim. You had to learn how to defend yourself as a mixed race kid in the south of England, so joining a boxing club was a very good idea’, says Q.
At the age of 10, Quinton joined Andover Boxing Club and following 85 wins and two NABC (National Association of Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs) championship titles, became a highly sought after athlete.
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Q was scouted by the Royal Marines, the army and the Royal Navy, the latter offer of which he accepted and began training in the Navy Squad when he was just 18.
‘The navy was the most persistent, contacting me and organising my test. Imagine this; I joined in September, entered the national championships in October, and I won the whole tournament,’ Q says.
He explains what he owes to the sport of boxing, opening doors which may not have otherwise been available to him.
‘As a kid, obviously we had no money, we didn’t have two pennies to rub together. So the way I got out, being able to travel the country and all around the world, was through boxing.’
‘It moulded me as a person’, says Q.
After 52 fights with the navy, Quinton was ranked fourth in Great Britain.
At his best, he was even ranked second in England under the NABC championships.
However, following an untimely wrist injury, he retired from competitive boxing at the tender age of 22.
‘I was obviously devastated at the time because I wanted to go and turn pro and it brought my fighting career to an end’, says Q.
Following this rather abrupt end to Q’s boxing career, he began coaching, setting up boxing clubs at every naval establishment he served at.
His coaching career went from strength to strength, beginning as a Royal Navy boxing coach, rising up the ranks to coach in the England team and in 2016, he was offered the position of talent and development coach for Team GB England boxing.
‘Really, my wrist did me a favour, I might not have been so successful in the ring, but as a coach, I’ve worked as an international coach for England’, he explains.
In September 2008, Quinton set up the Heart of Portsmouth (HOP) Boxing Academy, based in Southsea.
It offers boxing training to all ages, working with institutions such as Charter Academy and Harbour School, helping kids with exams and extracurricular qualifications.
Quinton explains that HOP is a ‘team effort’, he is aided by head coach Dave Johnston and his dedicated team of coaches, who work hard to train junior boxers into champions and deliver a school programme at the gym, all in the Heart of Portsmouth.
The club prides itself on delivering recreational, educational and competitive boxing at a high level, working with 13 schools in the city. The venue also works with social services and the youth offending unit, along with a whole host of others.
HOP remained open throughout lockdown, and Quinton helped create a community for lonely university students, offering training sessions outside in a car park and even down at the seafront as a release for those at a loose end or struggling mentally.
‘It started just before lockdown.
‘Every Friday we do Boxing for the Brain. Students can come in or anyone who wants to join, do some boxing and sit down and have a chat,’ says Q.
The service, open even in the midst of the pandemic, became a vital hub for students and local members.
‘When we were in Tier Four we gave the kids the code (to the gym) and whenever they needed too they could come down and train in the car park or in the gym.’
Shillingford, the Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Academy founder and senior boxer head coach, likens his attitude towards coaching to that of his former coach and role model, Billy Pike.
‘Treating people firm but fair, never having favourites, even if you’ve got a national champion in front of you, you speak to them the same way you speak to someone who just walked into the gym yesterday,’ Quinton explains.
Turning 54 on Friday, Quinton’s lifelong commitment to the sport of boxing is evident, both through the years he has put in and the passion that he still has in his trainees.
‘If one of my kids goes on to win a European title or a world championship, I really feel it. Even though I didn’t go on and do it myself I do feel it through them,’ says Q.
Q’s dedication to boxing was recognised in 2013, when he was awarded an MBE for services to the sport.
‘In the Royal Navy, boxing was disbanded, they said there was no money and it wasn’t a success. One of the reasons I got the MBE was because I said I would train the boxers in my own time.’
Q refused to let the sport be abolished, giving any and all of his spare time, from early mornings, late nights as well as his lunch break, to go in and train boxers and get the sport back on track. Over the three years he did this, Q churned national and international champions and increased its success so much so that the navy sponsored England boxing.
‘That was my thank you to navy boxing, they gave me a chance and a career, so I fought for them when they were in trouble’, says Quinton.
The boxer hopes to continue the good fortune he encountered through his sport, highlighted across his work with Heart of Portsmouth.
He sees his time in the navy as a trial run for what he started here in Southsea, providing kids with an outlet and even helping those lucky few become champions, and he shows his gratitude through his work.
He continues: ‘Really, if you think about it, I used the navy as my mock exam for the Heart Of Portsmouth Boxing Club.
‘When I came out, I already had a blueprint for setting up a successful boxing club.
‘All I did was start it all up again in Portsmouth on a bigger scale.
‘I’ve been pretty lucky really’ he says.
HOP Boxing Academy was originally set up to keep youths off the streets and engage them in physical activity and it still serves its purpose today.
The club caters for all abilities and backgrounds.
Visit https://www.boxingawards.co.uk/hop for more information.
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