BOXING: Sky’s the limit for Hitchin hotshot Tom Ansell as York Hall and Cooper Box bouts loom
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
A rush hour train rattles past as the watery sun shines a light on a non-descript industrial estate.
While weary commuters escape their mundane reality by making plans, dreaming of a different life perhaps, in a gym a short jog from the tracks, a Hitchin boxer is doing the same.
Anonymous lock-ups mingle with joiners yards and cash and carry outlets as potholes provide obstacles to navigate on the way to Total Boxer gym in Hornsey.
There is no reception, just an opening similar to a garage door. Once inside you are transported to a different world.
The smell and sounds of a boxing gym are like no other.
Stale sweat from the efforts of nameless pugilists fill the nostrils while your ears are drilled with the powerful thudding of punchbags and the rhythmic pounding of speedbags, designed to increase vital hand to eye co-ordination.
You hear the whoosh and thwack of skipping ropes slapping on the plain floor from boxers dripping in sweat hypnotised in metronomic efficiency.
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A trainer called Tony Pill eyes his stable of talent with the air of a wise bloodstock owner at auction.
The noise is punctuated by him uttering encouragement and advice to his charges in a low voice.
He doesn’t need to raise decibel levels because his boys respect him. That much is clear by the way they listen, nod and act immediately on tweaks or suggestions to their technique and training programme he suggests.
Tom Ansell is punching a heavy bag for three minutes at a time to replicate the precise number of seconds that makes up a round of boxing.
He faces a testing month of March.
He has a Roman nose and the sculptured body of Greek god honed by years of dedication to sport – in Tom’s unique case, rugby and boxing.
The 26-year-old former rugby fly-half-turned-boxer is fast earning a reputation as a rising star at 140lb super-lightweight level, and is set to face two bouts in March to boost his bid for a shot at a Southern Area title before the year is out.
He is working hard ahead of his sixth and seventh professional fights after having signed to Sky Sports.
Ansell’s fights are renowned for the passionate support his former rugby pals and other well-wishers bring – with fans known as the Ansell Army.
They will be out in force again at the world famous York Hall in London’s East End on Saturday prior to him also fighting at the Copper Box Arena on March 23.
The latter card will be live on Sky Sports, headlined by Charlie Edwards as he makes the first defence of his WBC world flyweight title against Spain’s Angel Moreno.
Hard-working but modest Tom told CometSport: “I found out about the Sky deal only recently. My promoter Steve Goodwin gave me a ring and asked if I was interested and I said ‘yes, 100 per cent’.
“It’s a massive honour. To be on the same bill as Charlie Edwards who is headlining is breathtaking. I never thought something like that would happen, especially this soon into my boxing career.”
Tom is unbeaten in his first five bouts having eased past his previous opponent, Lee Hallet from Canning Town.
Ansell’s 60-55 victory over Hallet – witnessed by CometSport in front of a raucous crowd in Tottenham back in October – means an attempt to lift a Southern Area belt is on the cards this year if he keeps winning.
He added: “My main strength is my endurance. I also carry a lot of power for my size, that’s an area I feel I’m underestimated in.
“If I’m boxing well everything will come off. I want to be in title contention by the end of the year to have a [Southern Area] title shot. I like to entertain the crowd but the main thing is that my manager Tony is happy and I’m happy with my performance.”
Coach Tony, articulating what many of Tom’s defeated opponents already understand, says: “Tom is as strong as an ox.
“He has a great chance of becoming Southern Area champion this year. After that who knows,” adding with just the merest hint of smile. “He’s raw but he’s learning everyday.
“He’s got a great attitude but he’s got to work hard at York Hall and the Copper Box before we can start dreaming of other things.”
As Tony’s words hang in the air, outside in the North London afternoon another commuter train rattles past.
In the unexpected but welcome warming sun of early spiring, dreams fill the air.
Call 07854 115766 for tickets. Tom’s sponsors are Southern Grove, Elite Vans, Hermit Of Redcoats, Nick Ansell PA, Top Guard UK, Redlift Hire, BD Electrical, Macron Herts, Food 1 Consultancy and Holts of Witham.