Where golf and boxing collide - taking a look into the unusual sporting world of Miles Harding

The average day for Miles Harding could not be more different.

Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 8:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 4:59 pm
Miles Harding, right, with Michael Ballingall, left, and Mikey McKinson

His two sporting loves take him from the luscious greens of Southwick Park Golf Club to the less than luxurious world of putting some of Portsmouth's top professional fighters through their paces as a boxing trainer.

As club pro at Southwick Park, Horndean-based Harding spends time helping players of all ages and ability fine-turn their swing and imparts his knowledge on how to improve their game while also running the retail shop on site.

But it's the hard yards of playing a part in helping push current WBO European and WBC international silver welterweight title holder Mikey McKinson onto the world stage that's given the 52-year-old the most sporting satisfaction in recent years.

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Miles Harding in his golf shop at Southwick Park

Harding achieved a dream of making it as a golf professional in his early 20s, it soon became apparent he wasn't going to be able to carve out a career on the tour.

As a result, he opted to take up a role as club pro at East Horton Golf Club for 28 years prior to taking up the same position at Southwick Park.

Yet, while continuing a career on the fairways, his boxing passion still remained. And after a 20-year stint on the amateur scene at Leigh Park ABC, Harding obtained his trainer's licence three years ago.

It's a rare story of a crossover between the two vastly different sporting worlds, but one he has no problem adapting to.

‘When I’m at work golf-wise I don’t really talk too much to the people about boxing unless they’re interested,' he explained.

‘I had this perfect grounding for it really because I grew up in Rowlands Castle, quite well-to-do, played at Rowlands Castle Golf Club, but because my parents weren’t wealthy I went to school in Leigh Park.

‘I’ve always had this ability to flip between, ‘you alright mush?’ to ‘how are you?’, I’ve always found it quite easy.

‘The boys at boxing all think I’m quite posh.

‘I’ve always had mental strength and that’s probably what’s important in boxing.

‘I’m still like that now, really, still single-minded now.

‘It’s been good. It’s given me a real lease of life, you think you’re never going to do something new when you come towards 50, it’s been good.'

His work teaching on the course and running various club retail shops across the area has always been the primary focus.

However, Harding is now trying to dedicate more time to his boxing role where he works alongside trainer and manager Michael Ballingall snr and Gav Jones.

The trio keep a watchful eye over McKinson, English lightweight mandatory challenger Lucas Ballingall, Connor Edney, Matt King, Harley Hodgetts and Elley Booth, who recently became the first female from Portsmouth to turn pro.

Harding had previously trained Gary Neale and Dave Birmingham after leaving the amateur scene, but he admitted working more closely with Ballingall snr has helped progress his personal development as a coach.

‘Obviously, Michael (Ballingall) was managing all those fighters, he was Gary (Neale) and Dave’s (Birmingham) manager and we sort of started working together as more of a team,' he added.

‘I think I’m lucky to be with them a little bit because I get to work with Mickey, Lucas and the other pros we’ve got.

‘I’ve actually learnt a lot off Michael (McKinson), you go into a sport thinking you know it all, but actually I didn’t know anything.

‘Professional boxing is so different to amateur boxing, the mechanics of the whole sport is totally different.

‘The dad, Michael senior, has been around boxing so long he knows all the tricks and the pitfalls.

‘His back catalogue of pictures is incredible with some of the corners he’s been in.

‘Even if it’s only on the spit bucket you’re learning - I think that’s the way he looked at it.

‘He learnt pro boxing from the bottom up so I’ve learnt a lot from him and some really.'

Although Harding is currently unable to get out on the course with golf paused because of the lockdown, training is still ongoing in the gym as all of the fighters he oversees are professional and can continue their work.

Harding has enjoyed being able to offer more of his time to boxing and is now planning on finding the right balance between his two roles moving forward.

But while golf remains a massive part of his life, his biggest hope now is helping McKinson, with an unbeaten 19-0 record, to become a world champion.

‘It’s finding a balance (between boxing and golf). Amateur boxing takes up a huge chunk of your life if you’re running it three days a week and taking kids competition,' he said.

‘Covid has freed me up time and it’s being in control of my own destiny, it’s working out, so far so good.

'I want to continue the golf and watch Michael become a world champion.

‘I’d like people to talk about our stable in high regard. I wouldn’t rubbish anyone else but what we’re doing is real and I know it’s the right thing.

‘It’s not fake for profile or people looking good for Instagram that they’re on a pro programme.

‘We’ve got a plan and a way for these kids to try to live their dreams really.'