Emerging from the tough, bleak streets of Miles Platting and Ancoats, are three friends entering on a boxing journey, that they believe will take them from the former Industrial Manchester heartland, to the bright boxing lights of Las Vegas.

Coach Stephen Maylett and his boxers Karl Place and Terry Flanagan are on a quest to the top of the boxing world, together they believe they can bring two world titles to Manchester and go on to follow in the boxing traditions of the fight city they come from.
Manchester has always been an hot bed of boxing talent, synonymous with names like Johnny King, Jackie Brown, Len Johnson and Jock McAvoy, outstanding fighters in the 1930’s and 40’s and more recently names such as Pat Barrett, Michael Brodie, Ricky Hatton and currently British and European champion John Murray, also WBA light-welterweight champion, Greater Manchester’s Amir Khan from Bolton, to name but a few.
Stephen Maylett a former capable amateur fighter and now at just 26 years old, one of the youngest and dedicated professional coaches in the country, believes his friends and boxing prodigies Karl Place and Terry Flanagan can go all the way to the top and accomplish there matched dreams of British titles and fights in the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip.

Interview with Stephen Maylett – British boxing’s youngest professional coach.

You mentioned that yours, Karl and Terry’s ambition is to take your Manchester show all the way to Las Vegas and eventually one of them, if not both lads fight there?

Well yeah but you probably thinking I’m aiming high there, but I don’t even mean box for a world title there at the moment, John Murray the British and European lightweight champion and his brother Joe boxed in Vegas on undercards, so that’s what I’m getting at, it is one of our ambitions, of course we would like to fight for a world title in Vegas, but just to get the lads a fight there on an undercard for the experience would be great, because I believe that at at the moment Vegas is the home of boxing. Me and Karl have been over and when we were there we said wouldn’t it be amazing to fight here and be part of the buzz, so if we ever got the opportunity to go over we would jump at it.

You all hold the Lonsdale belt in high esteem and have ambitions to take the lads onto British title fights?

Well our goal has a group, is to win the Lonsdale belt outright. I want them both to win it and I believe they are capable of doing that, and that is my goal, Id like to take a traditional route with the lads and win the English titles, then the British, I like the European and if it comes the commonwealth belts come then that too. But the European is again a title that is Id like to go for, I remember going to watch Micky Brodie fight for it and they were good nights, it is a good belt and it is very hard to keep hold of, and that’s why I think some people swerve it and try go onto world level, because I think some of the opposition at European level can be has hard as the opposition at world level, but at the moment having said that, I want to get the lads to concentrate on the next steps and fights as the main goals, before embarking on the dreams of major titles.

You had a good amateur career and had designs set on turning pro but through injury, tell us about your background in the game and how you became a coach?

I started boxing for the local Ancoats lads club, where I was trained by Sean Rafferty who is still classed as one of the best amateur coaches out there, he is all about skills and foot work Sean and that’s where I learnt most of me stuff from, but when I was 16, I felt I needed a change and to get a bit of aggression into my boxing, I was looking at other gyms and the boxers around me who seemed to be winning at the time were those who had a bit of aggression about em as well, and didn’t really have that, I just had all the skills so I decided to move onto Northside (Manchester Boxing gym), where there were more people my own age to spar, because I was the best in Ancoats in the gym and the sparring wasn’t good enough for me, some nights I wasn’t allowed to hit these kids back, and I wasn’t progressing anymore, so I needed more people my age to push me, because I was like a young man really at that age 16, 17 and they had a few men in Northside, so I was able to spar with them.

Who trained you at Northside and how different was it to your previous gym?

I was trained by Joe Pennant and Andy Silk, and I noticed the training was harder, they wanted more work rate out of you, which was good and what i was looking for. I got more sparring with lads like John Murray, Wayne Rigby, Wayne Pinder and other top amateur and pro fighters, all the fights I had there were against good kids and I had a win over current Commonwealth champion Craig Watson. I boxed in the school boy’s but got beat by Rick Goddins who has gone on to be a good pro and is unbeaten at the moment. Then just as was enjoying my boxing  I injured my right arm in sparring with Wayne Pinder, after that I couldn’t train properly, but continued to with one arm, and then being naive I fought a few fights and made it worse, then coming home from the fights in the minibus, I’d be nearly in tears the pain of my arm was too much, I couldn’t move it then for two weeks, id be in agony, but then after two weeks I’d be back in the gym training and sparring with one hand and then get another fight and go through the same thing again. In the end it just got worse and would play on my mind and I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I tried to get an operation on the NHS, but the consultant who had the final say said to me, ‘you go in the boxing ring and get beaten up and expect us to fix you up’ so he had a look at my arm and said, well you don’t need that movement in everyday life and he basically didn’t want to fix my arm, I wanted to go private, but at the time I didn’t have the money, and then I stopped going to the gym and lost interest in boxing.

How did you get back into boxing and eventually become a youth worker and professional coach?

Well I started to help my old trainer Sean train the kids at Ancoats lads and I enjoyed it, and I thought I could do this. At the time I was doing all sorts of jobs Demolition work, tarmacking work etc and I thought if a job ever came up where I could do this, I might give it a go, cause I was enjoying the coaching. Then when I was 21, I was offered a years contract with a local youth project through the council. But then when the contract run out I had to go back to demolition, but then after a few month’s I got a call and was offered a full time job with the Manchester college, working with kids who are having trouble in school or have been out of education for periods of time, and trying to get them back engaged with education, getting them some qualifications and then helping them move on into further education or work. And a big influence in me getting the love for boxing back was one night catching the Corrales, Costillio 1 fight on telly and I remember jumping up and down and my heart racing and I got the bug back again, so that fight had a big influence on getting me interested in boxing again.

Tell us about where you Karl and Terry live and the influence the area has had on you?

Although Ancoats can be deemed as rough, it is a close nit community, although people keep themselves to themselves, you can still trust people and we will stick together when needed, we have produced some good fighters from around here, Michael Brodie who I looked up to as a kid, Wayne Pinder came from these parts, Stephen Lloyd was another good Ancoats kid, Denton Vassell comes from here too there have been some good fighters, we have also had the odd lads go on to play professional football, my cousin Bradley Maylett played for Burnley and Swansea and a young kid from up the road went to play for United, Allan Griffin but didn’t quiet make it, but there have been allot of people around here who have had the talent but haven’t made it, maybe because they are from Ancoats. But that’s what we want to change, we want to take it one step further with Karl and Terry and make a success of ourselves.

Who influenced your boxing career and made you want to take it up?

My Dad really, he always taught me to stick up for myself and he would teach me how to box, I also come from a boxing family and its in the blood. When I was about 10, I started going to the local gym St Georges with my uncle John Paul, who was only 11 at the time, and one day going to the gym, when we were crossing Oldham road, John Paul got ran over and killed in front of me and that stopped me going. . .It was hard. But then a year later the gym moved closer to me and then I started going back, and that’s when I really set about it proper, because I had something to fight for then and I enjoyed winning fights and it made me feel good, and it helped me deal with and get over losing John Paul, when I won it filled that place in my heart and ever since that day I’ve been driven to succeed in anything I do, and I feel now on fight nights, when we have put all the effort in someone does look over us.

How did you become a coach for the lads?

Well I first met Terry when he came in the gym when he were about 7 or 8 and I was already boxing then for Ancoats lads, and he came in the gym and was just like the other kids in the gym.

Then after a couple of years you kind of lose em here and there, but Terry stuck with it, and you could see he had a nice little style, but he was dead, dead light and he struggled to get matches he was that light, and our old boxing coach used to weigh him in with two peas in his ball guard so he could make the weight, otherwise he wasn’t allowed to box. So from day one he had his back against the wall Terry, and he often gave 2-3 kilo away just to get a fight.

Then over the years when id stopped boxing, I’d see him about and ask him how his boxing was going and I’d try and follow him and see how he was getting on and go and see him fight in the championships.
Then one day over Christmas he knocked on me door a bit upset, so I said come in Terry whats up, had a bit of a chat and that, ‘Im goin to jack Boxing in’ He said. He’d had enough of it, he wasn’t going anywhere, he didn’t feel like he was being trained right, he was getting beat all the time, he had over 40 odd amateur fights then, and I think he had lost 15 on the trott at that time. We had a chat, and I thought I’ve gota help him out here’ because he was better than his record suggested and I knew that.
I said let me have a think about it, and I might do a bit of coaching with you to get him through the ABA’s, but if I do it I do it proper. Then on the New Years Eve, I phoned him to come round, and I said right Terry I’m goner start training yer, but you do what I say, when I say and that’s how it is, and he was all up for that, because he needed guidance and pushing in the right direction. So he said alright then, but I don’t think he really believed me at the time, because he’d seen others turn up train him then move on or letting him down. ‘I said right Terry I’ll be at yours at half five in the morning! he said shut up you ‘D… Head’ –  I said no Tez I’m being serious’
The next morning I was round at half five in the morning, and he was in bed, it was New Years day, I said, get up your doing sprints, and we went up to Manchester City’s Stadium, climbed over the fence, went onto the running track and that was it, we didn’t look back and from that day he took me serious, that was nearly three years ago now.

And Karl Place?

Well Terry was mates with Karl and told him about me and what I’d had him doing from New Years day, running every morning at half five etc. At the time Karl’s amateur career was going along the same lines has Terry’s although he was winning a few more, he wasn’t going in any direction. So Karl asked Terry if he could jump in with us, and I said he can do, but the same applies to him as it does to you, what I say goes and if he doesn’t he’s out. Terry said ‘No Steve he’s a good trainer, he wants it. He came along, loved it and felt like the boundaries had been pulled back in, and that’s what fighters need. I give them a  routine, a diet and disciplined training, we have a mutual respect for each other and it works, we are mates, but the respect is there from them for me as there trainer and there are never any problem’s with that.
I got them good sparring with pro’s like Michael Gomez and Karl would hold his own and realise that he was good and the step up from amateur to pro wasn’t a massive step and gave them confidence.

They had both been on the end of bad decisions in the ABA’s and then one night on the way home from Sheffield after Karl had been robbed in the quarter finals, we were all in the car, and Karl said, ‘Well what happens now’ Steve Wood’s our manager now, had seen Karl sparring at Bobby Rimmer’s gym and asked me when I’m turning him pro? at the time I’d shrugged it off, because we were concentrating on the ABA’s.

But I said well you are not going to get picked for England after the losses, and I think your both styles are suited to the pro game, and I think I can make you both into really good pro’s, although I did want Terry to stay amateur for another six month’s because I didn’t think he was quiet ready, but we used that time to train hard get good pro sparring and get him ready for the pro ranks.

Karl turned pro that October, boxed again in the November and then again in the December winning them all, then Terry turned pro after the six month’s.

You mention about getting good sparring for the lads’s

Bobby Rimmer helps me with some of that, I’ve known Bobby all my life,  he is a friend of me dads, and he has looked after me, he has let us use the gym on occasions. What I’ve found is that a lot of these pro’s don’t like travelling, but we don’t mind travelling, if I feel like the lad’s need it, I’ll travel up and down the country, which we have done, Karl as sparred some good kids including Amir Khan

Who are your favorite fighters? and what coaches influence you?

I was a massive fan of Naseem Hamed and I loved watching Tyson, I also used to look up to Michael Brodie and go to see his fights, I used to spar with Michael and helped him spar for his world title fight with In Jin Chi at Mosside when he was there. My influence as a coach, I’d say Kevin Rooney who was Mike Tyson’s trainer, I’d like how emotionally involved he would be after the fights. I like Freddy Roach, and what he has done with Manny Pacquiao, I learn allot off most coaches and I adapt things I pick up and try and improve on it.

What are your strengths as a coach?

I’m a young coach in the game but I’m dedicated to it and the lads and I am confident in my own ability as a coach, and the work that I do with them. I am tactically aware and can spot flaws and weaknesses in my own lads as well as the opponents. I believe in good footwork, balance, defence and I teach them to attack well, but also defend at the same time.

There will be more to come from Stephen, Terry and Karl as we follow there careers and path, on there boxing bond and journey from Manchester to Vegas.
Update: 1st December 2015Karl Place is no longer boxing, Terry Flanagan went on to win the English super-featherweight title, the lightweight Prizefighter trophy, the British lightweight title and recently fulfilled the dream he and coach Stephen Maylett set out to do, win a world title and add another Manchester boxer to the list of greats from the city, when he won the WBO world lightweight title. Flanagan and Maylett are now top of the boxing tree. Terry is undefeated 29-0, 12KOs. Read all the news and the Terry Flanagan story here.

The Journey continues…. Keep up to date with Flanagan here

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