The ‘Mecca’ of British Boxing
By: Johnston Brown – BillyCBoxing
Built in 1929, it was opened by the Duke of York and initially used as Turkish Baths and is now a Grade II listed building. York Hall nearly met its grim reaper in 2004 when Tower Hamlets Council planned to demolish it. After public outrage and a successful protest a 15 year deal was made with Greenwich Leisure, which brought in a multi-million pound face lift and the spiritual home of British boxing was saved. Since then the historic venue has once again become the ‘Mecca’ of British Boxing and will continue to churn out the future stars of today.
The East London venue is steeped with a colourful boxing history and was rightly voted as one of six best places in the world to watch live boxing. Recent ‘Blast from the Pasts’ on BillyCBoxing.com, Nigel Benn and Johnny Nelson both fought at the famous venue in 1988 and 1990 respectively. Boxing Hall of Famers Lennox Lewis and Joe Calzaghe both recorded early knock out victories right at the beginning of their glamorous careers. Other Great British fighters that have also toddled on the Hall’s canvas include MBE’s Ricky Hatton and Carl Froch plus overseas legends Edwin Rosario and Frankie Randall fought a terrific ten rounder while Tim Witherspoon and Johnny Tapia have also made cameo appearances.
In recent times, current IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua fought his third professional fight against Croat Hrboje Kisicek with Michael Watson and Larry Holmes ringside. I remember the former heavyweight champion giving young AJ advice after his fight, as the star struck champ took in every word. Former featherweight champion Carl Frampton also laced up in the legendary hall in his twelfth professional fight and second appearance when he defended his Commonwealth Super-Bantamweight title.
On Friday night York Hall hosted the first instalment of Matchroom Boxing’s Nextgen series that was broadcast live on Sky Sports and Facebook. The new format will showcase their young prospects and give them the opportunity to headline events, like the aforementioned fighters once did before them. The 1,200 capacity venue were in full voice with the overlooking balconies looming over the fighters as they produced some excellent fights for those in attendance and watching at home. James DeGale was among those watching in the crowd, another current champ that graced the Hall’s ring when he outpointed Shawn Porter in the England v USA international tournament in 2007.
British Boxing rival Boxnation aired for the first time at York Hall in 2011 when Liam Walsh, who takes on Gervonta Davis on May 20 at London’s Copper Box Arena, beat Paul Appleby for the Commonwealth Super-Featherweight title, which got voted the British Fight of the Year. Boxnation is a major supporter of World Series Boxing and show all the live action on their channel which in effect gives their young stars a chance of exposer to the public. This year the East London venue is the rightful home to the British Lionhearts and I will be in attendance for their second encounter with the France Fighting Roosters on April 6.
This venue is already legendary but with these young prospects continuing to shine bright, the shady old lady will continue to enhance its unique reputation. Thankfully, York Hall survived the scare of closure 14 years ago, it managed to beat the count and live to fight another day.