BERINSFIELD ABC last night celebrated the 20th anniversary of the club’s founding, writes MATTHEW BRUCE.
For founder and head coach Mel Corrigan it was a chance to reflect on a remarkable two decades in which he has overseen the club’s rise from humble beginnings to become one of the most notable amateur set-ups in the country.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve done with this club,” he said.
“We’ve come a long way since we started.
“We formed it to take the kids off the street and give them something to do, and obviously we can’t be with the kids 24/7, but now we can give them somewhere to go for four nights a week.”
After previous attempts to establish a boxing club in Berinsfield had faltered Corrigan took up the mantle in 1994, forming the current club.
Despite starting with nothing, the fledgling club quickly became an important part of the local community.
“The first thing we had to do was get some pennies in so we could buy basic equipment like bags and gloves,” Corrigan said.
“We first hosted a dinner show at Rivers nightclub in Benson and things just progressed from there.
“It started off in the leisure centre and when it grew too big for that we moved to the Army cadet building.
“We’ve since secured a 99-year lease on the building and opened a £340k extension, which is a real achievement for us.”
Opened in January 2011, the new extension was an important step for the club, boosting the gym’s capacity and allowing the club to host their own events.
For Corrigan, it was the culmination of a long-held ambition to create a legacy for the club.
He said: “That was our dream.
“We had a lot of setbacks along the way and there were times when we thought it wouldn’t happen. It was a lot of work and caused us sleepless nights, but the gym’s there now and it’s wonderful.
“We’ve had the England squad come in and use it and I think that’s a real achievement that we can look back on, to have hosted England.”
And 20 years since he first founded the club, Corrigan believes it’s more important than ever that the club continues to serve the local community.
He added: “We just want to keep the club alive and keep the funds coming in, because we are a registered charity.
“Like every community, everyone here supports us as much as they can.
“We’ve got a lot of respect as a boxing club and kids come from all over to join the club.
“Everyone here is unpaid and they put in a lot of hours unnoticed. It is a thankless task, but we do it because we love it.
“It’s great to see these kids actually achieving something rather than walking the streets of Berinsfield where they can potentially get into trouble.”