Steve Egan ‘discovered’ a 14-year-old Tyson Fury in 2002 and, earlier this week, took Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the pads
Steve Egan takes plenty of phone calls, but this one was different. It was both official and discreet, a request for a member of the Cabinet to visit the gym on Tuesday, as someone of that stature cannot simply turn up; arrangements must be made in advance. Egan was not informed who exactly would be dignifying Jimmy Egan’s Boxing Academy – named after his legendary father and of which he is the longtime head coach – with their presence, but he felt the Sports Minister, Nigel Adams, was most likely. Then Tuesday arrived and with it Boris Johnson, Conservative prime minister, looking for some positive PR ahead of the first Leaders’ Debate. There is an election, you know, on December 12.
Egan operates an open door policy and is unmoved by the few dissenting voices about Johnson descending upon Wythenshawe, Manchester; not exactly a traditional Tory heartland. He is thankfully used to big characters who attract significant attention, having trained Tyson Fury from age 14-21.
“I hoped it was Boris because he’s a proper personality,” a cheerful Egan told me a few days later. “All publicity is good for us, especially with 42 carded boxers, three lads to a bag and no sponsor.
“They said, ‘Will you do some pads with him?’ He kept asking me, ‘What are we doing, Steve?’ He was dead keen. I walked him round, introduced him to the lads and then we done some pads. He said he had boxed as a kid. We probably did about five minutes, we weren’t going for it though, just little bits; he didn’t understand some of the terminology. He wasn’t a natural, he was strong though. I think the lads enjoyed meeting him, he seemed a nice bloke, said he’s into boxing, he likes it and always had. I hope it gives the government a push to put things in boxing gyms.”
Amateur gyms are built upon the dedication of men like Steve, who celebrates 40 years as a trainer in 2020. A painter and decorator, who promised his father on the latter’s death bed that he would look after his mum and keep the gym going, works until 12.30pm every day before moulding the next generation, improving them as boxers and as people. Despite his vast experience, Egan is yet to meet anyone quite like Fury, whose autobiography Behind The Mask has just been released.
“I taught Tyson from day one,” Egan recalled. “He hadn’t done any boxing before; anyone can polish a diamond. He was this big, gangly kid, the first day he come in the gym. He was 6ft 4ins and 14st [196lbs], I saw him on the bag and said to me dad, ‘Heavyweight champion of the world. Me dad said, ‘He’s just walked in the bleeding door!’ I thought he was 17, 18, not just because of his size; he looked older. He said his name was Tyson and I thought he was winding me up. Then he said his second name was Fury and I thought, ‘I don’t fuckin believe it.’ I was supposed to have gone pro with him but what can you do? He says he’s got a book for me. Hopefully I get a good mention in it.”
As touching as that kind of recognition is for a proud man, as has been the interest generated by Johnson, what Steve and the club really need is money, for an extension and better equipment or, indirectly, to turn more lives around.
“It’s fantastic, great, that people can see what great work you do,” he reflected. “One person might see it and think, I’m into boxing, I’d like to be part of it.’ Investment would be amazing.”
With that in mind, if anyone out there would like to give this superb club a helping hand, please drop Steve an email by clicking here. Who knows, you may well play a role in the development of the next ‘Gypsy King’.