Jennings calls time on career

Michael Jennings at his gym in Coppull

Michael Jennings at his gym in Coppull

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After hanging up his gloves for good this week, you could not really blame Michael Jennings if he walked away from boxing.

All too often, professionals fall out with the sport they once loved.

Some completely walk away, while others hover around on the fringes.

But for 37-year-old 
Jennings, retiring has opened up plenty of new opportunities – including becoming a 
professional trainer.

Just 18 months ago, the doors to Jennings Gym in Coppull were officially opened by former 
light-welterweight world champion Ricky Hatton.

And since the opening, the gym has gone from strength to strength boasting a healthy amateur pedigree and a professional cruiserweight.

“When we first opened we didn’t think the amateur side would be this big but it has shown that people want to do it,” said the father-of-three.

“At the gym, we have myself, my brother Dave and Gaz Roberts.

“We all have our badges and we are one big team – it’s not just me, it’s all of us.”

Cruiserweight Matty Askin, from Blackpool, is the first professional on the books at the gym.

Jennings and Askin have history together as the 
‘Chorley Lurcher’ used to drive the 26-year-old to a gym in
Moston.

Askin and the Jennings Gym team have been together for two fights, in which Askin beat Tayar Mehmed and then Menay Edwards, when he defended his English title.

There would have been a third fight as Askin was due to challenge Ovill McKenzie for the British and Commonwealth cruiserweight titles in October until a hand injury intervened.

The fight between the pair now looks set to be on a Frank Warren card in the early months of 2015 and Jennings feels Askin can go all the way.

He said: “Matty is a good kid, and his career reminds me of mine.

“It’s a bit stop-start but I hope he knows he has stability with the gym behind him.

“He’s got everything he needs here in Coppull and it’s working well.

“I honestly think he can clean up in Britain.

“He’s not the finished article by any means but that’s what I’m enjoying about training, the technical side of things where we can improve.”

An amateur star himself, Jennings boxed 60 times in the unpaid ranks, losing just six contests.

His CV is impressive, boasting junior ABA titles, flying out to Russia to compete for his country and winning the schoolboy championships.

And Jennings hopes his amateur pedigree rubs off on some of the youngsters.

He said: “We have plenty of good prospects here. They are only babies in the game so it’s hard to say how far they will go.

“But we always make sure they enjoy it.

“It’s great here and the lads understand it – they know when it’s time to train they knuckle down and work hard.”

Next year already sees big plans for the youngsters.

Chorley’s Town Hall will play host to the gym’s first club show on Friday, March 6.

He said: “We will sell it out. We have some great lads and plenty who will sell tickets, the plans are going really well.”

‘Chorley Lurcher’ Michael Jennings last competed in a professional bout in 2010 against Kell Brook, who is now the IBF world welterweight champion.

But continuous shoulder problems have wreaked havoc with his recovery from injury.

And after a long thought, the former undefeated British welterweight champion has decided that his time is up.

“As much as I don’t like saying it, I won’t fight again,” said Jennings.

“It’s the toughest decision I have ever had to make in boxing and you don’t realise how time flies in this sport. Before you know it, its all gone.”

It could have been so different for Jennings, who boasts an impressive professional record of 36 wins (17 KOs) and just three 
defeats.

Just 14 months ago, he took himself off to Gallaghers Gym in Bolton and started a camp with trainer Joe Gallagher.

The welterweight got himself down to a respectable weight and was sparring with light-middleweight star
Liam Smith and up and coming lightweight Scott Cardle.

But with promoters actively seeking an opponent for Jennings, when something went wrong with his shoulder again. He said: “When I was told I needed a second operation, I knew that was it.”