Former champ is back and coaching
GEORGIE Smith is back in boxing, coaching at Canvey’s SS8 Gym.
The former IBO Welterweight champion shot to fame in south-east Essex during the 1990s before deciding to hang up his gloves on the eve of the Millennium.
But the 43-year-old, who once fought for the British title, is now back in the ring passing on his expertise to the island’s youngsters.
And Smith is loving his return to the sport.
“It’s really exciting for me,” said Smith.
“I had a few years out not really doing anything and getting involved again has really helped me change my life around.
“I’ve been coming down a few weeks now and it’s something I’m really enjoying.”
Smith won 17 of his 20 professional fights, 12 of which came by way of knock outs which made him a regular on the Echo’s back pages before his retirement in 1999.
But he now wants to help others follow in his footsteps, including 18-year-old Mike Hales the son of SS8 gym coach Diana Sigston who has won both of his fights so far.
“It would be nice if I could help one of the kids here go on and do what I did as a professional and I have to say I’m very excited about Mike,” said Smith. “He’s superb at what he does and he’s a big prospect to keep an eye out for.
“I have to say it’s also bringing back some great memories for me and it’s like a family down here.
“Everyone gets on with each other and I’m always desperate to come down because there’s a great atmosphere.”
And Smith’s own family could yet also follow in his footsteps, with his three young sons having now also started to box.
“I have twin boys, Albert and Harry, who are eight in August and Teddy who is six in September and I train then once a week,” he said. “I’m getting them involved but I’m certainly not a pushy dad and if they don’t want to do it then it’s just down to them.
“I’m just happy doing what I’m doing and I’m glad I’ve come back doing the coaching and not fighting.
“I did consider a couple of comebacks but every time I started the training I realised I wasn’t really up for it but I couldn’t be more into doing this and I’m grateful to have been given the chance.”
Diana formed club after attack
THE SS8 gym may only have been in existence for two years, but it is already packing a real punch on Canvey Island.
The gym, which specialises in boxing, kick-boxing and mixed martial arts, is regularly packed out by fighters of all abilities and ages.
But it was a near death experience suffered by gym coach Diana Sigston which eventually led to it being formed.
“I first became interested in kick-boxing when I was beaten up so badly I was nearly left for dead outside a nightclub,” recalled Diana. “One girl caused it and then a lot of others joined in and I was begging for my life.
“After that I was forever fighting my demons from the attack and, after competing in kick-boxing and in an IBA World Title, I became interested in the coaching side of things.
“And now I absolutely love what we’re doing at SS8.”
Diana Sigston, centre, and the club members
Diana, who also enjoys stunt fighting and was once shortlisted for a Hollywood movie, originally started teaching at her ex-boyfriend’s gym, also on Canvey, where she won an IBA title.
But she now relishes having her own base on Canvey and helping the area’s youngsters overcome their own difficulties.
“I have a real passion for helping others and working at the gym enables that to happen,” said Diana.
“We have plenty of youngster's coming in who have suffered bullying and we work with them to give them a sense of self-worth and more confidence no matter what background they come from.
“We help people who want to defend themselves but it’s a great group we have coming in and we cater for all abilities.
“We do different classes to suit a wide range of people and at the very top we have some excellent fighters too.”
That includes Diana’s own son Mike Hales, who also helps out with the coaching at the gym.
“I trained Mike to be like a machine so he would never go through what I did and now he’s doing well in his own career and with all the coaching he does,” added Diana.
“He has an unbeaten professional record and I have faith in him going all the way in the sport.
“It’s great to see and it's brilliant to have him involved here too so we can help as many people as possible.”
l FOR more details about the gym or to enquire about attending a lesson contact Diana on 07578636176.
Chris Phillips' view - It got rid of my frustration
HAVING been to a few of the MMA fight nights, it’s safe to say I was scared rigid when it came to having to try out the sport myself.
Being honest, I had never punched or fought anybody in my entire life and the prospect of me ever turning remotely violent causes great amusement among my friends.
Our man Chris gives it a go
I had also thought boxing and MMA was for the aggressive, kind of crazy people and maybe at the top level it actually is.
But I have to say I really enjoyed my first experience of the sport, despite initially having no idea what I was doing!
I tried out a number of different moves and techniques and, in truth, I wasn’t particularly good.
However, it was still a strenuous work-out which also made me feel bad for questioning some of the fighter’s fitness levels at previous events I had attended.
Overall, I found it to be something completely different and a great way to get rid of any frustration or anger which may have been built up.
Itss safe to say I will definitely be going back.
And hopefully soon I will understand what I’m actually doing and begin to improve!