Sports

Katie Taylor’s once home boxing gym in Bray is now lying sad and lonesome


To cycle from the Dublin Mountains to the Irish Sea the best route might be straight down the hill from the crossroads at Glencullen, where Killiney Hill promptly comes into view over the near side of Killegar, before a couple of sharp hairpin turns spill you out by the blue church at Kilternan.

From there a right and immediate left on to the Ballycorus Road means freewheeling on to Rathmichael Road, through the roundabout and the junction with Lordello to the old N11 overpass, which conveniently emerges at the Dublin Road and its cycling lane for the short distance into Bray.

Then left opposite The Coach Inn presents a neat shortcut through Ravenswell, under the bridge of the Dart line, straight out on to Bray Harbour. Seapoint might be the more popular route, only this one takes you into the Garden County too, even if it is a little harder on the cycle back up.

Depending on the rising tide or the setting sun the harbour side of the promenade has been a calm and idyllic swimming spot all this week. The town it seems is coming back alive. There is still a faded glory about parts of the Bray seafront familiar to many, maybe there always will be, and the most conspicuous one these days is not some rundown casino or boarded up chip shop.

It’s the Bray boxing club, lying lonesome and locked up idle on the Harbour Road directly across from the swan sanctuary, if not still a crime scene, a crime of sorts in itself. Katie Taylor may have long disassociated herself with this place, and for good reason, but there is a darkness about it now, even in the April sunshine, and especially compared to the bright lights around Madison Square Garden this Saturday night.

A picture of Bray boxing club, closed up this week.
A picture of Bray boxing club, closed up this week.

Of all the weekends in Taylor’s career perhaps it should be lit up like a shrine, maybe dressed up splendid like an altar. It was here after all where Taylor learned the ropes of amateur boxing, her father Pete always ringside, never losing sight of the ultimate prize.

Pride

In May of 2012, three months before Taylor made boxing history at the London Olympics, a report highlighted the “third world conditions” of the club, which lacked a shower and a toilet and of course there was no heating, the scandal then being how any proper athlete could train here in the first place.

Some boxing gyms may take pride in that, only this was too much. It may have added some further mystique to Taylor’s unparalleled status, but promises were made to ensure the future of the club long after she had retired.

In 2013, then Minister of State for Sport Michael Ring announced a special allocation of €1 million in Government funding for boxing clubs to upgrade training facilities for young boxers, particularly women.

Four years ago, early on June 5th, 2018, just before the morning training session, a lone gunman walked into Bray boxing club and opened fire, injuring Pete Taylor in the arm and chest and Ian Britton in the legs, and killing Bobby Messett.

The following January, 2014, Bray boxing club was reopened after a €300,000 facelift, with Taylor present on the day alongside London Olympic team-mate Adam Nolan. Bray Town Council put up some of the money too, the turning point in the club’s history proudly inscribed into a large granite stone just right of the entrance.

“We’re the best equipped club in the country now,” Pete Taylor said.

Towards the end of 2015, six months before the Rio Olympics, father and daughter split as coach and boxer, and as Taylor herself pointed out this week, she probably wouldn’t be still in this game had she won another gold medal in Rio.

Everything has moved on since then, except for the Bray boxing club she left behind.

Four years ago, early on June 5th, 2018, just before the morning training session, a lone gunman walked into Bray boxing club and opened fire, injuring Pete Taylor in the arm and chest and Ian Britton in the legs, and killing Bobby Messett. The exact motive for that crime has never been cleared up.

Idle

Wicklow County Council had been pursuing Taylor for €9,533 unpaid rent the month before, and in March 2021, the High Court dismissed his bid for an injunction preventing the Council from terminating the legal interests of Taylor, then head trainer, and the club. Bray boxing club remains locked up and idle.

In June 2021, Gerard Cervi appeared at the Central Criminal Court and pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Bobby Messett and to the charges of attempting to murder Pete Taylor and Ian Britton. That September the trial collapsed, after illness struck three members of the jury.

There’s no mention or even a small shrine to Bobby Messett outside Bray boxing club, only the faded closure notice, and the bewilderment at how it all went so hideously wrong. If you’ve time and can stop into the Harbour Bar right nearby it’s as if no one wants to hear about it either.

God knows what the Amanda Serrano camp would make of it. I’ve made a couple of trips down to Puerto Rico over the years, mainly to chase the winter swells that invariably make for the perfect surf northwest of the island at Rincon, the Oahu of the Caribbean.

It is unquestionably fighting country, it’s in their spirit, perhaps why for years cockfighting was considered a sort of national sport.

Michael Foley shared some wonderful pictures this week of Serrano’s adopted town of Bushwick, in Brooklyn, where she moved with her family when she was eight months old, the red, blue and white Puerto Rican flags hanging from the lamp posts and on bunting that flutter across the streets.

Victory or defeat on Saturday night, the centrepiece of that celebration, on the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Harman Street, is the vast mural which honours a row of Puerto Rican sporting heroes, the Serrano sisters Amanda and Cindy now sprayed chief among them.

It’s been said, too, that Taylor and Serrano probably share more than anything that might set them apart, which may well be true. Except that Taylor’s once home boxing gym is now lying sad and lonesome and locked up idle on the Harbour Road in Bray, with no sign of if or when it might ever make it back alive.



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