Jim Evans who has devoted his life to Boxing as an outstanding amateur boxer, Coach, Promoter and Manager has been honored with this rare, but so well deserved double award by the World Boxing Council.
Jim who`s been in Boxing for seventy three of his eighty five years, is a gentleman, inspiration, mentor and a father figure to so many boxers, from youngsters to champions. His old school standards, straightforward decency and dedicated approach are combined with kindness, attention watchfulness and real caring.
World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman praised Jim`s absolutely magnificent work by saying: “Jim, you are a boxing man through and through. You have spent your lifetime in and around the very heart of the Sport. You have an amazing reputation and have helped countless young men reach their potential over the years. We are so proud of you and our warmest congratulations.”
It all started when Jim was a pupil at Melburn Street School in London. As a twelve year old he went to Regents Park in London with school pals, supervised by some ex servicemen, who were coaches. To his surprise he was thrown in the deep end, with the gloves put on and ordered to box another lad. He instinctively and neatly parried a punch and the instructor admiringly asked him where he`s learned to box, to which he honestly replied this was actually his first time!
It was not his last, because he fought in two hundred and sixty contests, losing only around thirty of them, according his own reckoning. Because Jim`s Dad begged to differ, saying it was only thirteen. Dad kept the scrap books! Jim finally hung up his amateur gloves at the ripe old age of twenty nine, but prior to that he was in the epicenter of ring action.
He started by joining Gainsford ABC at Covent Garden entering the Schoolboy Championships, with Johnny Kent as his Coach, reaching the Finals at the Albert Hall in 1946. In the next year he reached the finals at the St Pancras Schoolboys Championship. Not content with training during the week, Jim stopped off at the Jack Solomons Gym on Sunday mornings, to train in its amateur section. As a Junior Jim won fifty five fights, only losing three.
After a stint in the Merchant Navy, Jim did his National Service in the Rifle Brigade and went out to Africa. In the East African Army Championships Jim fought the very experienced Mickey Dineen of the Irish Fusiliers. Back then gum shields/mouth guards were rarity and in round one of that semi final, one of Jim`s front teeth was knocked clean out and two more were loosened. It speaks volumes about him that he persevered… and he won the fight!
On a tour of Uganda, his Platoon Sergeant John O`Grady boxed a robust light heavyweight from the National Team. None other than Corporal Idi Amin who he knocked out in three rounds! As Jim`s Son Graham said: “Jim didn`t realize the enormity of Idi.”
After his Army stint which Jim thoroughly enjoyed, Jim who was fighting as a welter and super welter, joined the St Pancras Amateur Boxing Club. He also found time to train and qualify as a heating engineer, which was his day job. At St Pancras he fought, and then was trained by George Francis, who went on to coach John Conteh, Frank Bruno and Bunny Sterling. Back then, amateurs used to win prizes like bed heaters as well as pots and pans!
Jim himself progressed to being a trainer, and coached in a gym behind the Stag Pub in Maidenhead, where he also trained his Sons Graham and Justin. Then together with Kevin Duffy, he established the Maidenhead Amateur Boxing Club. Kevin was a two time ABA Junior Champion, who Jim describes at the finest coach he`s ever known. But Jim wanted to have his own training mecca, so…Jim`s Gym was created at the end of his very own garden.
He bought a part of the next door neighbour`s garden adjoining his own, and his Sons Graham and Justin, who were builders, constructed a masterpiece for Dad The Maestro. As Graham said: “You only had to step out of the back door, go down the garden and turn left.”
As youngsters and teenagers Graham and Justin were trained by Dad. Graham remembers: “Dad was very straightforward and talked common sense, but he wouldn`t hesitate to give you a fair old rucking in the corner.”
Jim was encouraged to start in the pro sphere by Len and Den Mancini. He staged shows in Windsor, Brentford, High Wycombe, Hayes, Watford and Bracknell, and they were smash hits. He also worked several times with Frank Maloney, and with Frank Warren. Jim coached some talented boxers including Keith Marner, Geoff McCreesh and Michael Sprott.
Michael Sprott recalls having an off night in his fight against Matt Skelton and Jim actually giving him a little slap on the kisser, after he returned to the corner after a none too pleasing round. He also gave Michael a straight verbal ear bashing in the fight against Robert Helenius, exhorting him, by saying it was his last fight and did he want to go out on his shield! Yet Jim who was tough when need be, also cooked breakfast for his fighters, after they returned from 5am runs, which he`d supervised. Doesn`t that say it all?!
Michael says: “Jim is a father figure. He looks after you, yet he`s tough like Cus D`Amto. Jim is no pushover. Woe betide you if you were late for training. His life has been boxing. His Wife Georgina, son and family have supported him throughout. He so deserves this award. It`s such a nice touch!”
What does this WBC Lifetime Achievement Award mean to Jim? Graham says: “Dad is quietly proud, but he wouldn’t tell you. It`s so nice for us and to tell his Grandchildren, just what he`s achieved.”
Jim who`s gravely ill, is being cared for at home by Graham, Justin and the Family. We are praying for him. I`m indebted for the generous, unstinting and kind help of Graham his Son, Laurence Williams, Boxing News, David Walker, Michael Sprott, all of his other many friends and those who dearly love him, for helping me with this article.
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