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Two-ton Tony gets ABA lifetime award

PUBLISHED: 15:29 02 January 2008 | UPDATED: 13:52 02 July 2010

Boxing - ABAE Awards & England v Ireland - Sheffield - Mercure St Paul's Hotel - 10/12/07

Tony Burns (L) receives the Lifetime Coaching Achievement Award

Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith

Boxing - ABAE Awards & England v Ireland - Sheffield - Mercure St Paul's Hotel - 10/12/07 Tony Burns (L) receives the Lifetime Coaching Achievement Award Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith

Len Whaley

TWO HUNDRED titles in 40 years, that is the magnificent Repton record during the reign of chief coach Tony Burns, the worthy winner of the ABA Lifetime Coaching and Development award when the 2007 trophies were handed out at Sheffield recently. Even the

TWO HUNDRED titles in 40 years, that is the magnificent Repton record during the reign of chief coach Tony Burns, the worthy winner of the ABA Lifetime 'Coaching and Development award' when the 2007 trophies were handed out at Sheffield recently.

Even the craggy, poker-faced features of the former featherweight surely broke into a smile with that lifetime award from the national body - remembering the days when he was threatened with a lifetime ban from the same ABA for his 'crime' of boxing at an unaffiliated club - the old Northampton boxing club in Bethnal Green.

However, there is no doubting his success as a coach, that is unmatched in amateur boxing and highlighted by the Olympic gold medal brought home by Audley Harrison from the Sydney Games in 2000.

ABA senior, ABA junior, NABC and schoolboy winners trophies - with average of nearly five national awards every year over that period shows a level of consistency that rival clubs can only envy.

Conveyor belt

The club's Cheshire Street Bethnal Green gym has become a virtual second home for the former boxer as he oversees the conveyor belt that produces so many champions.

Yet there was a time when Burns, walked away from Repton and vowed he would never return to the club.

It was in his own fighting days back in 1962 when Bridgend-born Tony represented Wales at international level and was told if he entered their championships he would be given a trip of a lifetime with a place in the Welsh team for the Commonwealth Games in Perth.

However, the strict Repton committee refused permission and insisted that the boxer had to enter through the local North East London divisional championships - and his hopes of Commonwealth Games glory disappeared.

He walked out to join South London's Fitzroy Lodge BC and continued his career in their colours and it was almost five years before he made his return to Repton as club coach.

Success came quickly with Barking born John Stracey - who later went on to world title fame as a pro - booking his place at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games as a 17-year-old at Repton.

That was just the start of the success trail that was to continue through the four decades that followed, as Burns, head of a successful family business, worked tirelessly to build the club.

Repton's rule of the amateur scene has brought its critics and the accusations that the club's success is built on boxers developed at other gyms.

There's no doubt that many of the Repton champions have been reared at other clubs - some far away from East London and switched to the Bethnal Green brigade.

Two of the Repton club's outstanding Olympians - Graham Moughton, who captained the 1972 Great Britain boxing team at the Munich Games, and Audley Harrison, 2000 Olympic Gold medal hero, came to join Repton from different sides of London.

The classy Moughton a true blue amateur whose international appearances were spread over more than a decade, switched from the West Ham Boxing club to Repton after launching his career at the old Monteagle BC based near his home in Barking.

Harrison was from the west side of town and boxed in the London north west division before joining the Burns' brigade at Repton.

Wave goodbye

The coach and the club cannot expect to be popular with rival club officials who over the years have seen some of their outstanding prospects wave goodbye and head for the Cheshire Street gymnasium.

However the East London club's reputation attracts success-hungry prospects and if boxers think they can improve their chances of titles and representative honours by moving to the Repton gym that's their choice.

Many of them are happy they made that decision - if you are in doubt - just look at the Repton record.

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