MIDLANDS amateur boxing has been rocked by the news that Kings Heath head coach Arthur Daly has retired after more than three decades in Northampton gyms. Daly turned out champion after champion during his time with Kings Heath ABC and before then, Kingsthorpe ABC. He made the decision for “very personal reasons”.

Frank O’Sullivan MBE reacted to the news on Facebook by writing: “Very sad news” and super-welterweight contender Kieron Conway said: “I never thought I would see the day.” Conway and Eithan James are current pros who served their amateur apprenticeship under Daly.

Conway went so close to becoming the first Northamptonian to win the British title when he held Ted Cheeseman to a draw and James has won all three fights with Queensberry Promotions. James was a dominant junior amateur domestically and won European Junior silver. Daly said the weekend in 2016 when James, Kyle Mason and Ben Vaughan all won national honours was one of the highlights of his coaching career.

The 1999-2000 season was also memorable as Daly had six national champions – including ABA welterweight champion Francis Doherty. Gavin Deacon, who went on to win Midlands honours at 140lbs in the pros, was in the gym at the time and said: “Everywhere you looked there were champions – from 12 year olds all the way up to seniors.”

“We had boxers come from Mansfield, Leicester, Telford and across the Midlands,” said James Conway, formerly Daly’s assistant and now a pro trainer. “That’s how highly the club was thought of.”

The late Fred Holmes, NABC champion and beaten by Derry Mathews in the ABA bantamweight final in 2001-2002, made the trip from Desborough and Reuben Arrowsmith might possibly have been the best talent Daly worked with. Arrowsmith won European Junior bronze in 2012 and was an unbeaten pro. As an amateur, Arrowsmith had plenty of top sparring with Conway and Noel Smith, gold medallist at Haringey and East Midlands Box Cups.

The Kings Heath gym has a large ring and a smaller one. “One to learn how to box,” said Conway, “the other to learn how to fight.”

He said, “Arthur wanted to win because he put so much into it. He would be there every night unlocking the door at the start and locking it at the end.

“He cared about everyone he ever had, he cared more than people thought. Arthur would get criticised for being a bit cautious with his matching. He didn’t want his lads having to go to school the next day and tell all their mates they got beaten. Arthur didn’t want them to go through that. Some fighters thought Arthur held them back, but he was looking after them.”

Deacon goes along with that. “The first three years I was in the gym, I only boxed twice a year,” he said. “There were loads of people I could have fought, but Arthur was cautious, he wanted the right opponent and he was suspicious as well.”

Daly had reason to be suspicious. Deacon remembered, “I got matched up once in London and when we got there it turned out my opponent was four kgs heavier than we were told he was – and he’d had twice as many fights.

“Arthur was offered money to take the fight and he told them: ‘You haven’t got enough money in your pocket. We’re going home.’

“Two or three carloads of my family had come along to support me and they all turned around and drove home.”

Daly was of the old school, a no frills boxing man who took a quiet pride in his boxer’s achievements. He would need convincing to talk to me, a supporter of Northampton boxing through the pages of the local press for three decades, and when he did talk, he was sure to give all the credit to his boxers and steer the spotlight away from himself.

As one of his former boxers wrote on Facebook, Daly was “no nonsense, no bull, no agenda.”

Fred Cummings passes away

MIDLANDS official Fred Cummings has passed away after a short illness. Mick Budden, who has recently stepped down as England Boxing’s Technical, Rules and Officials sub-committee secretary and frequently appointed Cummings for major events, said it was ‘a very sad loss’.

“Fred was a delight to work with and never had a cross word to say about anyone,” he added. “He was a lovely guy and so helpful – when some people didn’t want to officiate at certain tournaments, he would always oblige and step into the breach.”

He worked as police officer in tough areas of Birmingham for more than 20 years, even receiving an award for making an arrest after being stabbed.

Friend and fellow official, Tom Clarke, said, “I have known Fred for over 25 years, and I travelled together on numerous occasions to officiate at boxing championships throughout the UK. He was passionate and a font of knowledge on all aspects of boxing, amateur and professional.

“He was always the first to crack a joke, his sense of humour was second to none, he loved to play his mouth organ and break out into song when the boxing had finished for the day and we got together over a social beer in the evenings. We had some memorable journeys and experiences together.

“Fred will always be remembered in the Midlands for his unique style when announcing as MC. He took great delight in enlightening the audiences, coaches and boxers on the rules of boxing as a warm-up prior to the tournament starting. He just rolled out fact after fact whether it be a scoring blow, or fouls, or the process of scoring points.”