HAVING called time on his own boxing career, Marty Hannan established the Shannon Boxing Club late last year and the next Katie Taylor or Bernard Dunne may be training in Smithstown under his direction.
Having been involved in amateur boxing for many years in clubs in Ennis and Limerick, Marty finally turned professional but couldn’t make a living because the crowds buying tickets for fights were way down.
“Within six months, four shows were called off. When you’re a professional boxer, you’re self-employed, your work is your training and you’re relying on the fight night to get paid and if it’s called off, you get nothing. That happened so many times and to be honest, I fell behind in bills,” he says of his abortive pro career.
He is now self-employed, running a company that works with fitness instructors and personal trainers. And since last year, he has been working on bringing boxing to Shannon.
“Marie Rowland would always have been on to me to set up a club here in Shannon. She’s involved in the community and I would have been saying a few more were needed to do it. Eventually a couple of people wanted to commit and we got together. We started off with a little studio and as the numbers started coming in, we got this ring and got the venue.”
It has its own ring, while there are various punchbags and pictures of the likes of Andy Lee, Katie Taylor and Muhammad Ali adorn the walls. “The first fundraiser we did, we had enough to get a ring. We were very lucky, this ring, brand new, would cost around €4,000 but we got it for €1,500 or €1,600 second hand in Mayo. After that, you’re relying on members coming in to pay the rent.
“In total, we’d probably have 20 members but coming into the summer a lot of clubs wind down. When schools finish, boxing kind of finishes and we’d be hoping to reregister people in September. But we hope to tip away during the summer, keep sharp and fresh.”
The boxers are split into groups based on their ages, with eight to 12-year-olds and 13 to adults kept separate. The younger group trains on Monday and Wednesday nights, while the older ones train on those nights and Fridays.
Children can’t have contests until they are 12 and Marty believes in getting them into the sport slowly. “I like to introduce the sport to them, do little games for hand-eye co-ordination, get them skipping and interacting and when they feel comfortable, I can put them in doing touch sparring. As they progress, we can do a bit of school sparring, which is light contact sparring, gradually you introduce them to the sport before you put them in competing.”
Because the club is new, its members haven’t been cleared for competitions yet. “The way it is with members starting off, you have to get them medicals and from there, you get them registered as boxers with the IBA. There’s a process for them to get their boxing cards. We’re just waiting for their record books to come back and when they do, we can get them competitions. We’ve been travelling around to other clubs just for sparring.”
Moving from boxing to coaching is a big change, he feels, and he is conscious of the myriad of responsibilities that come with training youngsters. “I’m a novice at the coaching, being at the other end of the ropes is totally different. I knew how I trained myself, how I boxed myself but when you’re at the other end of the ropes, there’s different boxers, different styles, you’re working with small kids, you’re working with teenagers so it’s about being more aware, trying to make sure it’s a safe environment. At the end of the day you’re minding people’s kids once they come in the door so you have to be careful about what you’re doing,” he said.