SOUTH Wye Police BA coach Vince McNally has been awarded an MBE for services to the community in Hereford. The 52-year-old said the reaction to the news from fellow coaches and friends was “overwhelming.”

He added: “I’ve had messages from people telling me this club has changed their life.

“It’s very touching.

“I’m a boxing coach because I love it and to get an MBE for doing something I love is unbelievable.”

There is more to McNally’s role than that. He is also in charge of the Community Centre in Hereford where the club’s gym is based. McNally started out as a coach in 2005 and his role changed around a decade ago. “The Community Centre was broke and in trouble,” he said. “It was going to close.

“The manager came to me in tears telling me she had been made redundant and the trustees were saying we would have to close.

“I was asked to take on running the Community Centre as a volunteer.”

McNally accepted and a decade on, the club’s success stories include Othman Said. As a teenager, Said escaped Libya, where his father was killed during the civil war, and made his way across Europe to London. “I always loved boxing and trained in London for a while,” he said, “but life was too hard there.

“I don’t know why, but I chose Hereford.

“The first thing I did when I got there was look for a boxing gym. I got good people around me there who love me and that really pushed me on. It’s hard when you feel alone. I love this gym and everything it has done for me.”

Said reached the Development Class A final at 60kgs last season – and says his ambition is to enter the Elite championships and earn a call up to the Great Britain squad before turning professional.

Said, who says McNally also helped him find a placement at a local college, is one of around 200 members the boxing club currently has. Of them, McNally estimates “probably only 25” will box competitively, but he added: “Even if they don’t want to box, they get a T shirt, talk to other people and get the right message. They get a sense of belonging they might not get anywhere else.”

The club sent out 300 isolation kits of gloves, pads and a skipping rope during lockdown and was at the heart of the community when floods hit Herefordshire earlier this year. “During the floods we had asylum seekers and refugees whose homes were flooded and they had nowhere to stay,” said McNally, “so the boxers dug into their pockets and got together enough money to put them in hotels.
“I get a lot of pleasure from that.

“I took the community centre on because we had to keep the boxing gym going and now I really enjoy it.”

“We do work in schools with anti-radicalising and knife crime – and boxing is the hook. It’s more acceptable to some young people than other sports. It’s a bit more street and they want to be a part of something.”

McNally describes Mick Maguire and Alan Keast, of Jewellery Quarter and Tamworth Boxing ABCs respectively as “my mentors” and says Elite super-heavyweight champion Delicious Orie is a regular visitor to the gym in Hinton. McNally said: “Delicious drives all the way down from Sheffield to see us and he’s such an inspiration to everyone.”