As part of our series ‘Collyhurst and Moston Lads Club – The Next Generation’ we speak to former professional boxer, now  coach at the famous gym in Manchester Thomas McDonagh. ‘Tommy’ speaks about the new crop of boxing talent coming through the Collyhurst and Moston gym, that he now runs with Pat Barrett.

Always the joker around the gym in his fighting days, Thomas still brings an air of fun to the tough gym sessions as the coach now too, but underneath Tommy is serious when it comes to training and guiding his boxers and passing on what he learned and stopping them making the same mistakes he did during his own career.

Tommy was adamant that he wanted to do a ‘sensible’ interview for a change in this one. Behind the laughs and jokes, there is no doubt that Tommy is nothing but sensible when it comes to the position he now holds and the responsability he has of nurturing the young fighters in his charge.

Thomas McDonagh was a light-middleweight boxer from Manchester who never reached the full potential his skills and natural talents would have suggested. 

But now as a trainer ‘Tommy’ is well on his way, following in the footsteps of his mentor Brian Hughes, who ran the famous Collyhurst and Moston lads Club for over 50 years.

Together with his boyhood hero and co-trainer, former British and European light-welterweight champion Pat Barrett, Tommy is giving back the dedication and guidance to the kids that walk into the gym, like he himself was given by Brian from the age of 8.

Thomas McDonagh


McDonagh, 31, turned pro on 9th October 1999, he was unbeaten in his first 29 fights, winning the WBU light-welterweight title against Eugenio Monteiro in September 2003 on points at the MEN Arena in Manchester. He made two successful defences of the title against Bradley Pryce and Barrie Lee, before losing the belt to Wayne Alexander on a split decision.

After that defeat McDonagh came back to go on a 8 fight winning streak that saw him defeat names such as Martin Concepcion, Yassine El Maachi, Jason Rushton and Max Maxwell. Sandwiched in between these fights was an unsuccessful English title challenge against Andrew Facey, which ended in a draw, meaning Facey held onto the belt. In May 2009 McDonagh lost a British title eliminator against Sam Webb, 96-95.

But having narrowly lost that fight against Webb, McDonagh still got his crack at the British and commonwealth light-middleweight champion Anthony Small – on 29th November 2008, this proved to be his last fight before announcing his retirement.

Small, outpointed McDonagh to end his title ambitions and his ring career aged just 29 – Tommy admits to not being mentally prepared for his fight with Small, because at that time he had began training the other boxers in the gym and was splitting his time between coaching and preparing for Small.

He knew then that his career as a boxer was over, to be replaced by that of a trainer. Tommy ended his fighting days with a record of 40 fights, 34 wins and just 3 defeats all by decision, he was never knocked-out.

Tommy is now in his element as a trainer and has taken over the lease of the boxing gym, sharing the duties and responsibilities with Barrett, training the many amateur and professionals in the gym, some with Hugh potential.

McDonagh says he doesn’t miss fighting and getting hit! But is totally committed to continuing the Collyhurst and Moston Lads Club tradition of producing champions and repeating the proud history of the gym that is ingrained in him.

Tommy knows he could have given more when he was boxing, now looking back. He adds he came out of fights knowing he could have tried harder. And asked if there was one real sound bit of he could give, from an old pro to a new one? He says; “When you get the chance go for it, put everything into it, look after yourself and be selfish to your career, stay out of trouble and away from the girls, you only get one chance at this.

Tommy ends the interview by asking “Was that sensible enough for you?” It was Tommy!

We will be continuing our ‘Collyhurst and Moston Lads Club – The Next Generation’, profiles soon, with a  look at some of the other young up and coming boxers from the famous Manchester gym.

Other Episodes so far in the series:

Brian Hughes – A Collyhurst Lad – The Story of Hughes and the birth of the original gym
The Pat Barrett Story – Interview and career highlights with ‘The Black Flash’
Taka Bembere – The Next Generation Episode 1
Zelfa Barrett –  The Next Generation Episode 2
Arron  Michael Junior The Next Generation Episode 3
Lyndon Arthur –  The Next Generation Episode 4

All these articles include video interviews

By Chris Maylett


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