Bartley Gorman stood 6ft 1ins tall and weighed more than 15 stone in his heyday, and his brutal fights took place in bars, showgrounds and, on one occasion, down a mineshaft.
Many opponents were felled by his trademark ‘bull-hammer’ punch – a pulverising blow delivered between the eyes, and amongst his victories were wins over the infamous London brawlers Lenny McLean and Roy ‘Pretty Boy’ Shaw.
Bartley retired undefeated in 1992 and died from liver cancer at the age of 57… a passing which, at the time, was covered by national newspapers up and down the country.
Now, I first walked through the doors at ‘Hinckley Venture Boxing Club’ when I was around 17 years of age. It was a decision I took having sustained a severe neck injury whilst playing rugby, and initially it was (as so many say…) just for the fitness.
I soon fell in love with the sport however, and it became my competitive outlet, both as an active boxer in my late teens and early 20’s, and then as a coach.
One of the family’s fighting for ‘Venture’ at the time was the Gorman’s…
Sam, a couple of years younger than myself, was already a national champion, and Jerry, a few years younger still, was quickly building a reputation as a devastating puncher.
I learned so much about the sport simply by watching both Sam and Jerry box, as well as some of the other traveler families who worked out at the gym, and the friendships that were made have lasted for more than 20 years.
Jerry, who still trains 5 or 6 times a week himself, has now built up a stable of boxers who fight on shows under the UBL (Ultimate Boxing League) banner, which Jerry cofounded. The boxers, many of whom are former amateur boxers, compete without head-guards, normally over the course of 3 or 4 rounds, and in many ways, the UBL provides an effective and much-needed alternative to the amateur and pro ranks for those who still wish to step into the ring.
Recently, Jerry approached me to put together a few short video virals to help promote the ‘Gorman Boxing Team’. I was honoured to do so, and so I arranged to capture some footage at the Combat & Exercise Centre in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Over the course of around an hour, I videoed a sequence of sparring sessions and interviewed a small number of the boxers training under ‘Team Gorman’. The idea was to provide some insight into what it means to the people involved, whilst also producing something that could be used to encourage people to step into the ring and test themselves.