It is the boxing mecca and arguably the most famous gymnasium in the world.
Many of the sport’s greats, including Jake LaMotta, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, have trained in New York’s historic Gleason’s Gym.
But Roy Richardson, Ancoats plumber and Manchester amateur boxing legend, was not deterred.
His granddaughter Stacey Copeland, then 10, was working a heavy bag, and her presence in the male-dominated environment had ruffled some feathers.
Stacey, 40, who would become the first British woman to win a Commonwealth boxing title, said: âSomeone came up to me and said ‘We don’t let women box in the gym’.
âMy grandpa was like ‘No, she’s my granddaughter and she will box while we’re here.’
“It was really amazing for a man to stand up to another man in this environment. But he’s always been great to support me in this way and women in general.”
It was characteristic of the way Roy, who died at the age of 88 of Alzheimer’s disease, supported the hundreds of young fighters he took under his wing during a life dedicated to amateur boxing.
Born in Ancoats in 1933, he attended school near Beswick.
During World War II, Roy and his brother Bill were evacuated to the countryside, but suffered from malnutrition after being neglected by their foster families.
In the 1950s, Roy cut his teeth in the boxing booths of the Longford Park carnival in Chorlton, fighting everyone for money.
At 21, he was called to national service and joined the Royal Engineers.
After being demobilized, he married his wife Pat and the couple moved to New Zealand, where Roy began coaching young fighters at a local club.
When Roy and Pat returned to the UK, he began training at the gymnasium at Bredbury Steelworks in Stockport in the early 1970s.
It was the start of a decades-long love affair with the club, now based in Compstall, Stockport and three years ago renamed Roy Richardson Boxing Academy in his honor.
He has trained a number of amateur national champions and his fighters have won countless Northwest Belts, but his greatest impact has often come outside the boxing ring.
Several young boxers learned to read from him, Roy and Pat, from Hyde, even took boys home after going through tough times and trips organized by the club to places such as New York, Canada, Cuba, Denmark and Germany. gave many young people their first opportunity to travel.
Stacey said, âHe saw the boxing gym as a place to instill everything – respect, love, support, discipline – all of those life lessons that are really important beyond the sport.
“That’s why he was so loved. He was very unique that way. He would discipline them, but he would also show them a lot of love and support.”
Stacey, who made history when she became the first British woman to win a Commonwealth boxing title in 2018 and also played in an FA Cup final for Doncaster Belles, says her grandfather has touched the lives of everyone with whom he came in contact.
She said: âHe was five and a half feet tall and weighed around 10, but he felt like a giant. He was an absolutely huge character.
âYou can’t know Grandpa and not have a story. He was a real colorful character.
âHe had a unique gift – he was really happy every day. He had that childish quality, he was a big kid, always doing something stupid, but he always lived in the moment. He didn’t dwell on it. the past he’s never met anyone else who can do that and he’s kept that quality his whole life.
âEveryone who had anything to do with him was touched by him.
“I really can’t think of anything in my life that hasn’t been influenced by him, politically, socially, everything.”
Outside of boxing, Roy was an avid reader and tap dancer.
He completed his first marathon at 50 and his first parachute jump at 58.
He loved to laugh and joke – a favorite prank for the amusement of his grandchildren was to wrap his ears and nose in rubber bands before entering a store and asking if they had rubber bands.
And for 15 years, he appeared in panto at the Romiley Forum where he played Gertie Gobstopper, in Stacey’s words, âthe ugliest lady you’ve ever seenâ with steel-toed boots and a bizarre wig.
“He made all the lines at halftime because he forgot what he was supposed to do and say, but he got away with it because that’s just who he was,” added Stacey.
When age and declining health prevented him from playing a practical role in the gym, he still regularly attended sitting in a chair at the top of the stairs and watching young hopefuls being tested.
And while Roy, a father of two, grandfather of five and great-grandfather of five, has dedicated his life to boxing, Stacey says the sport has given her a huge sum in return.
“He liked respect, courage, camaraderie.
âHe loved the atmosphere in the gym, everyone joking together, pushing each other. He loved people. Because of everything boxing, it attracts colorful characters and he absolutely loved it. aspect.
âIt gave her a way to inspire people, to help people, to make a difference. It allowed her to focus on life and it was a great place for her energy and character.
“His presence just filled the gym. It gave him a space to be his biggest self. It was in the gym that he really came to life. This is where he really was able to. to be himself as a member of that massive community he loved.
“It allowed him to share all of his gifts. It’s a good thing for anyone to find this and Grandpa did.”
Roy’s funeral will be held next month at the Romiley Forum, on a date to be confirmed.
It will be called âRoy’s Final Roundâ and his family hope to make it a big celebration of his life.