Few people are talked about with the same reverence in British boxing as the late mercurial trainer Brendan Ingle.
The influential Irishman helped hundreds of people who came through the doors of his famed Wincobank Gym in Sheffield.
Plenty of them made it in boxing. Many of them made it in life.
Ingle passed away in 2018 but through his years forging champions, often from scratch, he coached the likes of Herol Graham, Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson, Kell Brook and dozens of other champions and contenders.
It was during the ascension of another world champion, Junior Witter, when a 13-year-old called Barry Awad came in the gym.
Initially Ingle thought little Barry had been sent by Naseem Hamed as a spy. By then, Ingle and Naz had long-since fallen out, but Brendan’s suspicions meant Barry got the short end of the proverbial stick.
Brendan figured that if he got Barry to work relentlessly hard, to perform the same mind-numbing drills over and over, then soon enough Barry would leave and not come back.
But the kid stayed. Not only that, he had a thirst for learning, was clearly ambitious and he had an unwavering discipline. Brendan spoke and the kid, who would go on to become Kid Galahad, listened.
Now aged 31 on the eve of fighting Liverpool’s Jazza Dickens for the vacant IBF featherweight world title as the bill-topper of Fight Camp’s week two, Galahad is the last remaining fighting link to the brilliant Sheffield guru.
Whether Galahad is motivated to become Brendan Ingle’s last world champion or not, he’s attached to a rich history but his trainer Dominic Ingle, one of Brendan’s sons, wants his fighter to achieve success to give himself a better life, not for the family legacy.
“My dad would want Barry to do it for himself,” said Ingle on the eve of fight night. “We’ve all had our achievements, my dad from training fighters and he had other goals and achievements personally but he’d be saying ‘You’ve got to do it for yourself, Barry.’ Barry might feel a different way about that but I don’t. It’s about Barry and if he achieves it for himself that would make everyone happy and it would have made my dad happy, that he’d done it for himself.”
Barry is as dedicated now at 31 as he was at 13. He lives just yards from the gym and he trains year-round, whether he has a fight date or not.
He stuck with it despite Brendan’s early misgivings and he’s still just as hungry and determined.
Dickens has been active the last couple of years while Barry has had just one outing since a narrow 2019 defeat to Josh Warrington, but Ingle says Jazza’s activity is no substitute for living the life the way his charge has.
“It’s better to keep on an even keel as a fighter, where you’re always six or seven weeks away from a fight rather than when you’re undulating, you peak for a camp and then you go down again,” explained Dominic. “Jazza’s had to do that and when you get older it’s not a good thing to do so although he’s gone through the process of a training camp and he’s had fights… inactivity means not doing anything and they say Jazza lives in the gym but their idea of that is different to ours because we eat right, we train right and Jazza blows up between camps, it’s well-documented and that’s never good on your body.”
Ingle maintains Galahad is active because he’s a full-time athlete.
Would Galahad not have benefited from having some sort of contest since his last, in February 2020? His trainer doesn’t believe so because he says Galahad, 27-1, is always ready to go.
“He didn’t want to have a tick-over fight, he wants the big fights and keeps motivated,” Dominic continued. “If they take confidence with him being inactive that would be like us taking confidence from Barry knocking him out last time. We’re not. But if they want to that’s fair enough.”
Galahad and Dickens met in 2013, with the Sheffield man stopping Dickens in 10 rounds. They’ve sparred subsequently, too, but Ingle admits all that counts for nothing this weekend.
“Not really,” Dominic stated. “Maybe it will have a psychological effect on Jazza for getting knocked out the first time he ever got knocked out but from Galahad’s point of view, he’s not going to use that as something to give him confidence. That’s in the past and it’s not something we are going to use to build on as part of the game plan to beat him, you’ve got to start from scratch because time has passed. They’ve both matured in different ways, they’ve both fought at different levels so you can’t look to that to give you confidence. Barry’s not been out of the gym in a year and a half. He’s kept himself focused, he’s done the weight easy and he’s in great shape so he’s ready to perform on Saturday night.”
Their long-standing relationship means Galahad can often be found on autopilot. He knows the drills. He knows the methods and he knows what to do. He just needs tactical guidance and someone to make sure he doesn’t go too far off track.
“Obviously I’ve trained him since he was 13 years old, it’s now 18 years down the line and he systematically does what he does,” Ingle added. “He’s easy to train because we’re on the same page. He knows what he’s got to do when he’s training, he knows how to execute it. These days it’s more a case of making sure he doesn’t do too much and then jumping in when little mistakes are made in sparring, that’s it. The rest of it he’s got down to a tee.”
And should Galahad win the IBF world title and if another championship belt goes back to Wincobank, the legendary Brendan Ingle will have one final champion. That’s not lost on Dom, though he doesn’t want to make the fight about that.
“He [Galahad] was the last one really that Brendan spent any time with” Ingle admitted. “He came to the gym when Junior was just world champion and Brendan had a lot of time and Barry endeared himself to my dad and he took on the ideology of my dad and the stories and everything.”
Now Galahad has his own story in his own hands, but he’s also capable of writing a mighty fine epilogue to Brendan’s.