‘Q MBE’ sounds good for coach

Q Shillingford MBE, right, with boxer Greg Bridet at The News 2012 Sports Awards
Q Shillingford MBE, right, with boxer Greg Bridet at The News 2012 Sports Awards
Conor Chaplins 94th-minute winner earned Pompey three hard-earned points from their visit to Stadium MK Picture: Joe Pepler

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Quinton Hosford Ernest O’Brien Shillingford MBE.

If there was someone who didn’t need their name made any longer, it’s the man recognised by the Queen in her 2014 New Year’s Honours list.

‘It’s a bit of a mouthful,’ joked the Heart of Portsmouth coach, who more commonly goes by his first name’s initial.

‘I think I’ll just keep it to Q MBE!’

Shillingford is today making room for the letters which will proudly stand at the end of his name, after being given his order of chivalry for services to boxing and young people.

The news arrived as a complete shock to the 46-year-old, who has dedicated his life to the noble art since first lacing up a pair of gloves as a nine-year-old outsider on an Andover council estate.

‘I was a black lad on an estate who didn’t know anyone, so I quickly learnt how to stand up for myself,’ said Shillingford, as he look backed to a period which would provide the foundation for his life in the sport.

‘I was the only black kid in the whole school. In fact there were no black kids in Andover.

‘My parents split up, we moved down from London and we were very poor.

‘I remember we didn’t have any food or heating. I would train and then go home and have powdered milk for dinner.

‘I would look out the window and see the kids being chased by the police wagons.

‘But boxing made me as a person. It was a nightmare but when I started boxing it all stopped.

‘I never wanted to fight people, but I would do if they bullied me.

‘But then I was 13 and became a national champion. That was it.

‘The same people who were trying to do me in were now trying to be my friend.

‘That’s why I’m so keen to get kids engaged with sport now and pour their energy into training.

‘My coach taught me to stay out of trouble, though, and stay humble.

‘I remember that and that is something I try to pass on to this day.’

When Shillingford says boxing made him as person he really means it. After all, he has known little else.

In a decorated amateur career he had 142 bouts along with a long and distinguished life in the navy.

Over 22 years in the senior service Shillingford boxed before moving into coaching, where he excelled in reinvigorating a failing squad.

His passion, drive and effervescent personality was crucial in developing a team which would contain eight boxers in the top 10 amateur rankings.

‘I took over the navy side in 2000 and it was dead in the water,’ Shillingford said.

‘I started as a gym manager at HMS Nelson.

‘But within three years they had one of the top teams in the country and reinstated the post of navy coach.

‘Then I remember the GB rankings came out and we had eight ranked in the top 10.

‘Navy boxing was right up there again.’

Shillingford’s impact had been felt in the navy world – and local boxing was the next in his sights when he joined civvy street.

And it was to be a seismic impact with the formation of Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Academy (HOP) in 2008.

The club were to go on to become a national powerhouse within a few short years, but Shillingford’s vision went beyond their success.

Two years before the club formed he pioneered the Boxing Tutor Course and began working with the Amateur Boxing Association on delivering the scheme.

Within two years GB Boxing had adopted it, as the initiative flourished.

By 2010, HOP had linked up with Charter Academy in Southsea as boxing made its way on to their curriculum. It was a groundbreaking moment.

Shillingford now delivers the National Boxing Awards nationwide, and the London ABA are planning to take it into every one of the capital’s educational institutions.

It was while coaching the awards in the midlands, Shillingford was to meet a woman who would go on to nominate him for his MBE.

The recovering drug addict had used the scheme to get her life back on track.

And with the ABA’s support, she called for Shillingford to be honoured.

That paved the way for a moment last month which left the disbelieving coach stunned – and more than a little emotional.

Shillingford said: ‘When I saw the letter I wasn’t quite sure what it meant.

‘It all seemed a bit ambiguous and I didn’t really know what was happening.

‘Then a fella rang up and told me I definitely did have it.

‘It got a bit emotional after that! So much went through my head.

‘I was in the house on my own which was probably a good thing, because I could really let it out!

‘All the hard work I’ve been through and the hurdles and barriers I’ve had to get beyond all came flooding back.’

So it’s been quite a period for Shillingford, with his MBE the sweetest surprise on top of the news he has now also become a GB coach.

That will see him work with the top boxers at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

Despite a door opening which could offer exciting possibilities in Yorkshire, Shillingford has no intention of turning his back on boxing locally.

‘It’s all been a bit mad and surreal,’ he said.

‘What a Christmas it’s been. What a new year.

‘The GB coaching position is the last stone in the wall.

‘I teach recreational boxing as a job, I train competitive and educational boxing at the club and school and now I’m doing elite boxing with GB.

‘And this is something that is not a job to me, it’s a hobby.

‘But I couldn’t be based up at Sheffield.

‘I’m a boxing coach at HOP and I don’t want to lose that.

‘I love going into schools and working with children of all abilities and making a difference.

‘That is what boxing is to me. It’s real life.’