IT’S not everyone who can say that they helped a boxer who would go on to dominate Europe and possibly the world, but Doncaster’s Pete Bell can.
Not that you’d ever hear Pete, one of life’s gentlemen, boasting about it.
He readily admits that he never had Jamie McDonnell down as someone who would go on to win the British, Commonwealth and European bantamweight titles one day when and he and a group of mates first joined his Hatfield gym - though they did turn out to be a talented bunch with a number of them having gone on to grace the professional ranks.
“I thought that Jamie’s twin brother Gavin (who turned professional a couple of years ago) was the better of the two,” recalled Pete, now back in the sport after a break.
He is the chairman of the Freedom ABC based at the old Lindholme Prison gym.
Pete is no stranger to the gym. He worked at the prison as a PTI for many years and has spent hundreds of hours of his own time and hundreds of pounds of his own money in ‘doing’ the place up so that it meets all the stringent health and safety regulations as well as providing for the needs of club members, be they would-be boxers or people who just come to keep fit.
His efforts, and those of others, are there for all to see on a typical club night with an extensive range of equipment and a ring.
Training sessions are split, as regulations now demand, with juniors leaving before the seniors arrive.
Both sexes are catered for and Pete is hoping to have a couple of female coaches to add to Neil Barron, Jimmy Harrington and John Hargate.
Like Pete, who is the club’s conditioner, both Neil - a former player - and Jimmy - a former professional boxer - are also members of the Dons’ backroom team.
Despite having to find £8,000 a year to cover running costs, the club charge modest membership fees (juniors £1.50 a session, seniors £2) and don’t charge any senior who is out of work or any junior whose parents are unemployed.
They are also committed to helping a charity every year and this year’s nominated charity is MIND. To help meet costs, Pete hires out the facility, which also includes an outdoor floodlit training area, to several other organisations including the Dons, who train there three nights a week during in winter.
Formed 18 months or so ago, the club has yet to make it’s debut - though Pete hopes to have at least one senior on a bill in London next month.
Although looking forward to seeing more boxers taking to the ring, Pete insists the club will not push anyone too quickly: “I won’t put anyone in the ring until I think that they are good enough,” Pete told The Star.
“The boxing ring is one of the toughest places in sport; there is nowhere to hide.
“Some clubs throw inexperienced boxers into the ring too quickly and sometimes before they are ready because they need the money from shows. That is something that we’ll never do.”
Away from the club, Pete is currently putting the Dons’ big-name signing Paul Cooke, who had been out of the game for a year, through his paces.
And typical of the man, who must be one of the fittest men for his age in the town, he is not asking the former Super League star to do anything he can’t do - including running up the hills on the Lakeside development.