How Borg has helped St Joseph’s become the gym of champions
Gary Baker on 21/12/2011
Many years ago, in almost every district of every town across Wales, there was a boxing gym. Some of the greatest fighters the nation has produced have emanated from these.
Now there are not so many about but one club is thriving and breeding champions thanks to the dedication of a remarkable man.
Tony Borg, 46, says simply 'boxing is my life' and that willingness to nurture and breed outstanding talent in the ring has finally gained him his own official Welsh sporting recognition.
The man who is often seen in the corner attending and encouraging Welsh boxers during international contests has been named the Sport Wales Male Coach of the Year.
The Cardiff-born lightweight had a reasonable career in the ring before turning to coaching, winning 13 of his 24 contests, four by knock-outs.
He fought ex-British featherweight champion Steve 'Sammy' Sims for the Welsh Area super featherweight title in 1986 but lost on points over ten tough rounds at Risca Leisure Centre.
But Borg's heart and soul is based at St Joseph's Amateur Boxing Club in Newport, a white-painted two-storey building on the corner of Commercial Road, Pillgwenlly, where they have breed them hard in the tough district that stands in the shadow of the famous Transporter Bridge and near the Town Docks.
And surely not many other clubs in country can say they have not just one but two members of the British London Olympic Games boxing squad for next year in their stable.
St Joseph's have that in the shapes of Fred Evans and Andrew Selby.
Borg is rightly pleased for his boxers and also delighted yet humble at winning the coaching award for his efforts that also include leading Sean McGoldrick to Commonwealth Games gold in Delhi last year and rising talent Richard Buckland medalling in the younger Commonwealth's bracket.
He said: "I'm honoured and it's nice to get an award like this when you are sat among so many other talented coaches.
"Boxing is my life and I'm in the gym all day, every day. This year, we have had great success with Sean McGoldrick winning gold at the Commonwealth Games and Richard Buckland winning at the Young Commonwealth Games."
Then professionally, Borg added: "Gary Buckland has won the British title and Lee Selby has won the British and Commonwealth title."
And of course there is the Olympic icing on the cake with Evans and Andrew Selby.
"We have had so much success this year that if we can match it in the next ten or 15 years, I will be over the moon. It has been a brilliant year for St Joseph's Boxing Club," added Borg.
"We are on a bit of a high at St Joseph's and in Welsh boxing in general. We have two boxers qualified from Wales for the Olympics, which is massive. We haven't had a boxer at all in 28 years. The last one was David Griffiths and now we have two.
"I was going to say it is out of the blue but it's not. It is through a lot of years hard work and dedication. There is a lot of talent in Wales and it is being tapped properly.
"When we go away for these different tournaments around the world, people say 'Where are you from?" You say 'Wales' and they have never heard of it. So I think we are now making our mark.
"This is easily the best period for me in both the amateur and pro. On a personal level with St Jo's, all of this has been amazing from one little gym.
"And the rest of Wales is the same as there is so much success around Wales and we are definitely on the map."
There is no resting on laurels either. Borg added: "Speaking from our gym's point of view, it is like a conveyor belt. We have got youngsters coming through - 14, 15 and 16-year-olds - making their way in the amateur scene and then, in two or three years at that level, they move onto the professional rankings.
"We have a system in the gym which starts with seven-year-olds on a Sunday morning at 10 o'clock, ten-year-olds to follow and right through the day.
"We then have beginners sessions on the Monday - and it is like a conveyor belt with people just constantly coming through."
And there was no relaxation on that belt even with his award, presented at the Welsh Institute of Sport, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.
It was off with the suit and tie, back into the tracksuit and off to St Joseph's where his fighters were waiting to get down to work.
But he did admit after his award: "I'll go home after the gym, have a shower and change and go for a quiet drink to celebrate."
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