Nick Westby: Inspiring and uplifting - how Brendan Ingle was a saviour to so many

Any conversation with Brendan Ingle was an uplifting one.

Brendan Ingle, pictured at his gym back in 1982

He spoke of the young men and women in his charge with great enthusiasm and warmth.

He talked of their wins and their losses, inside and outside of the ring, with compassion and perspective.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

And when he was done talking about them, he would start recounting tales from the St Thomas’ gym in Wincobank, a safe haven amidst a blue collar neighbourhood for so much of Sheffield’s youth for the past half a century.

Brendan Ingle

It was there that he nurtured future world champions like Prince Naseem Hamed, Junior Witter and Johnny Nelson.

But it was also in that gym that he offered santuary to countless others – “t’ousands and t’ousands” as he put it – giving them purpose in life through the sport of boxing. He acknowledges he was strict, but he was also fair, and many would think of him as a saviour.

Over the decades Ingle’s gym was a magnet for Sheffield’s unoccupied youth. He took kids off the streets and offered them hope.

One such troubled adolescent was Kell Brook, who would go on to win a world title under Brendan’s son Dom.

Brendan Ingle outside 'The Sheffield School of Boxing' in 1982.

Long before that, the senior Ingle would have to go into the young tearaway’s school to talk Brook out of trouble with his teachers.

This he did with many more, before and after.

Discipline, respect and hard work was the code of conduct he exemplified and with which he expected his boxers to live by.

In later years when the reins were passed to his son, he was still a constant fixture in the gym.

Even after a bout of epilepsy left him briefly paralysed a little over four years ago, it was not long before he was back where he belonged.

“If anyone comes looking for me they’ll always know where to find me,” he laughed the last time we spoke.

“I’ll either be sweeping the floor at the gym or sat on the edge of the ring talking to a young kid.”

Boxing, and youth sport in Sheffield, is the poorer for the loss of that reassuring presence perched on the edge of the ring.

But his legacy lives on in the many lives he touched.