David Parkin on the legacy of a local hero and feeling like a million dollars

David Parkin on the legacy of a local hero and feeling like a million dollars

FAREWELL then Keith Tate.

I read a short obituary in the Yorkshire Post a couple of weeks ago about a boxing trainer I met 30 years ago and memories came flooding back.

When I was a teenage student at Huddersfield Polytechnic (it turned into a university just in time for me to collect my degree) I fancied myself as a bit of a boxer.

With a grandfather who boxed in the final of the 1932 ABA Championships and went on to become European Police Middleweight Champion in 1937, I believed I had something of a pugilistic pedigree.

So off I went to Dewsbury Amateur Boxing Club – two temporary buildings next to the railway station in the town at the centre of the Heavy Woollen District.

The club was run by Keith Tate, a stocky flat-nosed one-time flyweight boxer who won numerous amateur titles and defeated future world lightweight champion Ken Buchanan before turning professional as a bantamweight.

But it was as a trainer of amateur boxers that Keith really made his name, establishing the Cleckheaton Boxing Academy in 1975 and running it alongside his wife Sally for 40 years.

Keith’s gyms produced a host of national boxing champions as amateurs and many went on to great success as professionals including  the British super featherweight Gary ‘Five Star’ Sykes and three world champions, Mark ‘Hobbo’ Hobson, ‘Super’ Steven Conway and James ‘Roberttown Rocket’ Hare who was an upcoming schoolboy boxer when I used to train at Keith’s gym.

Well I say train, Keith used to get me to skip in a corner after a couple of unsuccessful sparring sessions.

I was quite proud of my three minutes in the ring with Peter ‘Pitbull’ Judson, a flinty-eyed professional super featherweight from Keighley who went on to win an IBF title.

I even landed a straight right to the body that made him wince until someone told me he’d spent the half hour before our sparring session having a one stone medicine ball bounced off his stomach.

My next, and final sortie, into the sparring ring was against a shaven-headed middleweight of travelling stock who backed me into a corner and landed a punch which made my nose run, my eyes water and had me dribbling from the mouth all at the same time.

The bell rang and I walked over to Keith in the corner.

“That was a quick three minutes,” I said to him.

“It wasn’t three minutes, it was 30 seconds, I think you should do a bit more training before we have you back in the ring,” he replied.

From all the things I’ve read about Keith, who died last month at the age of 74, , it is clear that he really cared about his boxers.

From those that fought for world titles to bumbling students like me who would never even pull on a glove for an amateur contest.

The one thing I didn’t know about Keith Tate is his incredible work as a foster carer.

He and his wife Sally, who were married for 49 years and had four of their own children, fostered more than 500 troubled youngsters helping many of them who had been through the court system to turn their lives around.

It is an amazing and inspiring story.

When you see some of the oafs who receive honours, it is sad that a great man like Keith Tate didn’t receive the recognition that he would never have sought but truly deserved.

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THEY say clothes maketh the man and your clothes should make you feel a million dollars.

That’s what I was looking forward to as I walked through the glass doors of the Victoria Quarter in Leeds heading to the atelier of tailor James Michelsberg.

Being an ambassador for a tailoring business is one of the pinnacles of my career (so far) and so you can forgive me of having a spring in my step as I went to collect a new sports jacket and trousers from Baron von Michelsberg this week.

Pressing the buzzer at the door to his first floor base, I waited for James to answer.

When he did, I said: “James, it’s David.”

“David who?” came the answer.

Now that was a bit of a worry.

Mainly because I know James has a new customer called Cody who is eight-years-old and I could easily now be yesterday’s man – or the day before that.

I tried on the stunning brown check jacket and flannel trousers (my parents would have called them slacks) and posed for a photograph amid the sunlit Victorian splendour of the County Arcade.

James, having reassured me he definitely knew which David I was, had reverted to his natural charm and bonhomie.

“David, I am proud you will be walking around wearing this gear. In fact they wouldn’t be out of place being worn if you were sipping an espresso in a square in Rome or stepping off a yacht in Sardinia.”

And true to my pledge as a Michelsberg Ambassador, while I haven’t yet worn them on an overseas assignment, I have donned the jacket and strides for some equally prestigious occasions when I had a cup of milky coffee in Leeds Market and a narrow boat ride in Cleckheaton.

Have a great weekend.

 

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