...who is the greatest sportsperson of all time? And three will answer Cassius Clay, 96 Muhammad Ali and one ANother, for example Zatopek, Bannister, Laver, Borg, Navratilova, Redgrave, Schumacher, Joyner-Kersee, Phelps, Federer, Bolt, Jordan, Pele, Woods, Messi, Nicklaus, Warne, Comaneci, Sobers, Campese, Indurain, Moses, Best or Lottie Dodd (please Google her). ............…...….......space for your own choice.
None will answer Beckham, (I hope).
You will know that Clay and Ali are one and the same and that what elevated him ultimately above the crowd was his scintillating wit, his razor-sharp intellect and his willingness to voice and unwillingness to compromise, his deep-seated convictions.
Ali's sport divides opinion just as he did. In the blue corner its supporters promulgate its character-building, its fitness, its "keeping kids off the streets and out of trouble" aspects whilst in the red corner its opponents condemn its savagery and contrived aggression. (N.B. At law, a boxer's fists are deemed lethal weapons). Personally I have long admired the essential courage and the optional but inevitable post-fight respect.
"Commitment!" emphatically opines Allan Fleming when I ask him the major requirements for success in the sport. "Natural ability is a given but commitment and hard work will take a boxer a long way."
Allan has been head coach at the Livingston Boxing Club since 2008. He boxed himself for the club until 2005 under the astute tutelage of Junior Atinlami. Today these two plus fellow volunteers, Keith Dodds and Lenny Hughes, devote much of their spare time communicating wisdom and experience to up to 35 aspiring boxers each club night (Mondays and Wednesdays 6 p.m.). The fee? £1. No not a misprint. And somehow, along with funds raised by their boxing shows, (watch for them!), the club self-finances; but support of any kind will be gratefully received and put to effective use. They also hope one day to receive some funding from the local authority. All coaches are registered and CVP vetted.
They put down the red carpet for everyone - adults, children 6 and up, keep-fitters, novice boxers, experienced boxers, welcome one and all. Under 10s (and anyone who doesn't want to trade punches), are strictly "no contact", but, says Allan, there is still immense benefit to be derived in balance, coordination, agility, self-confidence and physical condition.
For those who do wish to compete, well there are some big boots to fill: a pair of size 6 actually, that belong to Elaine Greenan aged 34 and a pair of size 10 belonging to Adam Salata age 37, who two years ago brought unprecedented honours to the club by winning the Scottish championships at Welter and Super Heavy weights respectively.
Allan mentions some youngsters he believes well capable of stepping into those boots, so watch out for Livingston talents climbing the rankings.
And whatever your verdict on the sport, (mine's a split decision), put your hands together for four dedicated coaches who give their time for free to teach West Lothian youngsters the lifetime values of fitness and self-discipline.
First published in Konect September 2018
Author: David Levin