Brian Hughes – pic by Andy Gray –

Manchester Boxing trainer Brian Hughes MBE has not only been a coach to the boxers who entered his Collyhurst and Moston Lads Club above the Co-op in the tough North Manchester district of Moston.

Hughes has been a father figure a friend, confidant, youth correction officer and a guiding light for many talented pugilists and wayward strays who have climbed the stairs to his boxing domain on Lightbowne road.

The 71-year-old last month announced his retirement from the game after 50 successful years in the hurt business. From his humble beginings Hughes left the Merchant Navy to embark on a career teaching boxing.

Hughes took local lad Pat Barrett onto win the British and European light-welterweight titles and a world title challenge and was the person over the years responsible for keeping Barrett on the straight and narrow from personal problems out of the ring, like he had done before and continued to for many many others.

Pat Barrett Documentary

Barrett is now following in Hughes footsteps, like he did from his mentor Jack Bates, by taking over as head coach at the gym and will look to continue the legacy set in place by his mentor half a century ago.

Hughes became fascinated with boxing after watching a Newsreel about the the great American world featherweight champion Willie Pep and started boxing himself when his neighbour, Andy Lambert took him to Lily Lane youth club, just around the corner from the current gym, that was run by Fred Hampston and Ronnie Furness.

“Mr Hampston made a great impression on me, he came to see my Mother and asked if she had any objections to my boxing and I began to dream of being World Champion.” said Hughes.

Hughes had a few amateur fights, but it was clear early on that his boxing career would not be in the ring, but has a trainer in the vain of his peer, local world class trainer Jack Bates who Hughes idolised.

“I’d stand gazing through the window of Harry The Barber’s on Rochdale Road Collyhurst where Jack Bates trained his lads and can remember clearly the day when Tommy Fynan let me go into the gym. said Hughes.

In the early 1950’s legendary Manchester fight figure Bates moved from his gym on Rochdale Road and opened the Rainbow Gym on Queen’s Road. This became like a second home for Hughes and the legacy began.

“I used to sweep up and watch all the greats preparing for fights. Former lightweight champion Frank Johnson, his brother Jackie Bradock, Tommy Proffitt and Stan Skinskiss, were among the many who trained there.

After cutting his teeth in the fight game under Bates guidance, who concentrated on the defensive aspects of boxing as the building blocks for there fighters, Hughes went on to open his own boxing club in 1965 – and the The Collyhurst and Moston Lads club was born.

The Collyhurst and Moston Lads club video by ballyupnorth

Hughes started out at Community Centre on Willert Street, Collyhurst with some Army kit bags stuffed with old clothing as punch bags. But despite the humble beginnings the club soon attracted dozens of youngsters from the local council estates and a boxing and football team were set up.

Under Hughes leadership the Boxing Team won championships year after year. National Schoolboy titles, National Junior ABA titles, England Schoolboy Internationals, Junior England Internationals, Senior champions and internationals and the football team won League and Cups and the the club went from strength to strength.

They had to flit from there original based in the 1970’s when the Manchester re-generation schemes meant the old club was flattened. Thats when they moved to the current gym in Moston. Hughes kept the boxing section going but had to drop the running of the football team.

“My first priority was teaching defence. Taking the teachings of Jack Bates, Fred Hampson, and Tommy Proffit and Billy Tansey as my guide I emphasised defence as the first policy.” said Hughes, the first Manchester trainer to gain an ABA Coaching certificate.

Hughes’ biggest success has a trainer came when he took Robin Reid onto win the WBC super-middleweight title in 1996 against Vincenzo Nardiello in Italy.

In life away from the gym, he married Rosemarie and had four children and in his spare time became an author, writing a book about Manchester United player Tommy Taylor, who died in the clubs Munich air disaster.

Since that book Hughes has had 11 bestsellers printed on various other football stars and what he calls craftsmen of the boxing ring, including Jock McAvoy, Johnny King, Jackie Brown, Willie Pep, Howard Winston , Sugar Ray Robinson and Thomas Hearns.
Buy the books here at Brian’s website.

Made in Manchester Documentary with Brian Hughes by nalgazo

In the Millennium honours list, Brian was awarded an MBE for services to the community. A journey that started out in the Lilly Lane youth club and ended around the corner at the current gym is ingrained in local Manchester folklore, echoed around the boxing world, and will forever be in the hearts and minds of the many many souls who have been part of the Brian Hughes story.

As Brian steps out from the ropes for the last time he believes the last three youngsters he has developed at the gym, Scott Quigg, Rhys Roberts and Matthew Askin, will go on to bigger glory and world honours.

Speaking to the Middleton Guardian Hughes said: “I would have loved to have helped take them to world championships. For the past 50 years I have devoted my life to the club and unfortunately it has had to end for me.

“But I wish those lads every good wish and pray they become a credit to their families and themselves.”

I would personally like to wish Mr Hughes all the very best in your retirement and to thank you for the years of dedication to the game. A true fight figure who gave boxing and the world more than just boxers.

I had the privilege to briefly train under Brian’s guidance in the early 90’s and be around the gym at the time when Pat Barrett was British champion and Billy Koety was a trainer there. I remember the day he let me into the gym to spar and told me I wasn’t that bad. It was one of the inspirations that keeps me doing this and I have never lost my love of boxing. Thankyou Mr Hughes enjoy your retirement.

For more information on Brian Hughes visit his website

By Chris Maylett – British Boxers editor 

If you have been trained by Brian or he has been a part of your life in anyway, please leave your tribute to him below. 

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