Legendary Suffolk boxing promoter hangs up his gloves after six decades
- Credit: sarah lucy brown
Boxing legend Franny Peake talks fondly about his five daughters and their families as he scans the pages of the many scrapbooks that chart his career in the sport.
Family is everything to the 80-year-old and his wife Jenny and pictures of the girls and their families adorn the walls of his kitchen and living room in his Ipswich home.
But there is another “family” that is close to their heart, of the boxing persuasion, even though Jenny openly admits to not being a boxing fan.
Despite that, she has become just as crucial a figure as Franny on the Ipswich boxing scene.
Franny has decided to call time on his boxing career after more than 40 years running Ipswich Amateur Boxing Club (Now known as Ipswich Boxing Club) at Murrayside, in Ipswich.
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Between them, they have been the heartbeat of the club, creating opportunities for youngsters to get into the boxing ring, resulting in varied amounts of success.
Franny, whose first love was football, was, in his own words, a “fair” boxer, who fell into the training side when he was asked to help run Landseer Boxing Club in the early 1960s.
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When Landseer closed, he formed the Ipswich Amateur Boxing Club, starting at Arcade Street, before it moved on to Priory Heath and the Murrayside Centre, where it remains to this day, and worked with legendary local trainer Smiler Perkins for much of that time.
Since then, and with the unwavering support of Jenny of whom he says “I could not have done all this without,” the veteran has passed his knowledge on to hundreds of youngsters, whilst raising huge sums of money for local charities.
The latter is as a result of the numerous boxing shows he has organised over the years, along with the support of a dedicated charity committee, his family, and generous sponsors, including the Baker Boys and Terry Ingram.
In recent years, his trademark has become the annual Ipswich ABC’s November Charity Boxing Banquet, held at Copdock. His last show there was last year and had been run independently by the club for over 20 years.
Franny has also taken boxers to represent Ipswich and Suffolk in Europe and formed bonds with counterpart clubs in countries such as Denmark and Israel.
He arranged for an Israeli team to box at the Co-Op Fete in Christchurch Park and billeted a Canadian schoolboy boxing team at Woolverston Hall School, to box at Copdock.
The former dock worker also ensured that Ipswich staged the Schools’ ABA Finals and every round of the ABAE Championships, except the finals.
“I don’t think I missed a night’s training (at the club), I could not let the boys down and whatever I do, I have to put 150% effort into it,” said Franny.
“My car is there on the drive and has done 26,000 miles. I have only had it two years and I think just about every mile has been dedicated to boxing.”
Asked whether or not she likes boxing, Jenny adds with a smile: “Do you want the truth?
Amongst her roles, Jenny has been kit-maker to the club, making sure the boys were all dressed correctly over the years as they represented the club up and down the country.
“I did not like it, but I did it for Franny and anything I do, I do it to the best of my ability, I’ve made kits, been Suffolk secretary, but I never wanted to get involved,” Jenny says.
“She used to make all the kits at one time – all the material was bought voluntarily – I don’t think people realise the expense and time that goes into running a boxing club,” explains Franny, who has held posts as chairman of the English Schools ABA, as well as the chairman of the Suffolk and Eastern Counties Amateur Boxing Association.
“But I would never let a boy go in wearing slippers, they have got to look the part and we ensured they did. We never got any help though, any kind of perks. Before I finished at Ipswich, I spent about £1,600 (money raised from the club’s shows) on kit to give them (the club) a good start
“Then there is organising the shows, getting sponsors, selling tickets and matching up the boys to ensure they all got to box.”
Their efforts paid dividends, however, with numerous boys over the years winning regional and national titles up and down the country.
“Karl Woods won the National Schools title, he was the ABA Junior champion and was unbeaten for four years, until he moved into the senior ranks really,” enthused Franny.
“Every professional manager wanted him when he was a junior, but he did not turn pro.
“Dean Hurd went on to become Army champion, while there was Stafford Wedderburn, Rory Burke and Ray Duffy, too many to mention really.
“David Starie, left, who went on to become a Commonwealth and British champion, also trained with me.
“We did not lose many matches, even at Repton ABC which is considered to be the best club in the country.”
So what is the secret to his success?
“Get your punches right,” says Franny.
“My philosphy is big punches attract big punches. Be crafty, don’t get hurt, get your footwork right.
“Very few of my boxers got stopped. They get stopped left right and centre now.
“Coaching in boxing has changed the same way it has in football.
“The boys are over-coached now, the same as in football. That’s why the foreign players that come across are so good, because they are allowed to flourish naturally,
“I kept it straight to basics, good footwork was the main thing for me and that takes a while. Get your hands up, straight left that was my best punch, protect yourself and move.
“People go on about throwing hooks. It’s all “hook, hook” and lots of aggression and shouting, the best boys I had could not hook and they won championships, they were winning them every year.”
Success in the ring came with blood, sweat and tears, and it was similar values out of it that also yielded success, Franny and the club raising hundreds of thousands for numerous different charities over the last 30 years or so.
“I don’t know of any club in country done as much as we have done,” he said.
“I have been doing the show at Copdock for the last 22 years (organised independently by the club) but I was fundraisers long before then with the Rotary Club and the Round Table.
“I hope the people that I have got in at the club carry on the tradition of raising money.
“We have done so many shows, for different charities, the biggest donation being the “Wishing Well Appeal” to Great Ormond Street, which raised £14,000.
“I am really proud of what we have done as a club and achieved and it’s what has kept me going for so long.”