Birkenhead Venture Boxing Club. A conversation with Sean Trodden.
As I’m about to start my Sports Journalism course at John Moores University, something that I really wanted to do this summer was get into more sports as I live for football. Tennis is one I’ve picked up through the success of Emma Radacanu and Novak Djokovic the past few months, F1 has got me gripped and I also can’t wait for the great Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury fights.
On Thursday afternoon, I had the great pleasure of meeting the owner of Birkenhead’s Venture boxing club in Sean Trodden. He showed me around the gym, including the seven extensions he’s been building! We then spoke about a range of boxing subjects, before we had some time to talk about the club we both support in Tranmere Rovers.
Just to start our conversation off, could you tell us what your role at Birkenhead Venture boxing club is and what responsibilities your role entails?
I’m the head coach, the competition secretary and the founder of Birkenhead Venture since it’s rebirth in the early 2000’s. I oversee everything and do my best to ensure that everything is being run properly. I’m the electrician, the cleaner but my main responsibility is to ensure that all classes run smoothly, making sure all the boxers are ready to fight and making the matches for them also. The matches have to be even so it’s safe and that’s why you get boxers that fall into different categories. I oversee everything really.
How would you describe your history with boxing, how did you first fall in love with the sport?
My dad ran the club from 1979, I used to come down as a small boy with my brother and him. He used to do the coaching, it was a good break for my mum as she was able to get us out of the house! I used to play rugby at Birkenhead Park, in the same team as Austin Healey who has since became a star for England. He was a good mate of mine really. So, I was just coming down to get fit for rugby but then I got the bug from being in the gym with my dad. I had my first boxing competition when I was 14, in 1987. I had three or four contests in school. I went from being nervous to wanting more through training with other boxers in the gym and building up my confidence. So, I had ten contests over fifteen years. It all morphed from there.
Was being a boxing coach something that you ever really wanted to do?
I didn’t really want to be a coach but when my dad opened it with me there were a few other coaches that came over from the original club who weren’t up to much, I felt that it would all soon fall flat on its face. So, I took the bull by the horns and caught the bug for it. I went through all of my coaching badges, I couldn’t think of doing anything else now.
How long does it take to get those badges? What do you need if you want to undertake them?
The first step is level 1, ‘England boxing coach’. You’ve got to be registered for that as you’ve got to have your DBS, be trained in child protection and have your first aid course. Once you’ve got those in place you can then start the course. Then you’ve got to be in the gym, working for so long until you can move on to level 2, 3, 4 and so on. It takes a few years to get up to a good standard but your learning on the job, so to speak.
To touch on exercise and the importance it plays on mental health etc, you take a look around the boxing club and you’ll see people of all ages and genders. So how important do you believe having a good fitness session is for everyone?
I think it’s vitally important because mental health is getting noticed a lot more now. Personally, I don’t suffer from anything too bad mentally but I think exercise plays a part in that. I had keyhole surgery in November on a hernia, I couldn’t train so I was feeling a bit low but when I got back into it I started to feel more upbeat. My hernia then popped again so I had to get an open surgery. I’m at the end now of a 15 week lay-off. I feel ratty and lethargic and have put 2 stone back on from the original 4 stone that I lost. So, it all adds to the negativity. Whereas I know next week that I’m back on it again next week and I’m looking forward to that. So, from my own experience and those of people that I socialise with I know there’s a massive link between exercise and feeling more positive, confident and upbeat.
Who are your favourite boxers and what are some of the greatest fights that you’ve had the pleasure of watching live?
It’s like groundhog day for me as I’m all boxing shows all the time, the season’s just kicked off so we’re out four/five nights a week. We’ve got championships coming up. I love Mike Tyson, I loved his style and I think that if a peak Mike Tyson had stayed on it mentally then he’d have been the greatest ever. I still believe that he is because I loved his style and his character. There’s so many great fights spanning a lot of eras, I just love exciting and evenly matched fights as they’re always good to watch.
If someone is hearing about this boxing club for the first time through this interview, how would you convince them to come here?
I may be slightly biased but I think that this club is a hidden gem, I think that you’ll agree with that as I know you were taken aback by the size of the club when you came walking through the doors. We’ve got a full size boxing gym, with three full size boxing rings in. We’ve got all the changing facilities, for male, female and the disabled. We’ve got a full strength conditioning room. There’s a big cardiovascular suite and a treatment room with saunas in. I think a lot of people just don’t know we’re here because of the location, even though we’re slightly popular I’d still say that we’re relatively unknown. We’re bursting out of the property really and that’s a testament to the work that I and others have put in, I’m really proud of the place.
What are the sessions here, in terms of the numbers that are on and the coaches that you have helping out. How would you say that you adapt to the different skill ranges that people have?
There’s a session from Monday-Saturday, 7am-1pm, which is an open gym so you can come in and do your own thing. It’s quite an easy mellow place to train, there’s no show offs and no people with massive muscles in vest tops! On an evening, Monday, Wednesday, Friday we’ve got a junior class from 7 years onwards at 6pm which has proved to be very very popular. The other day there was 84 at this session and we had 70-odd last night. It’s a fun-based introduction to the sport, anyone with potential will move up to the squad class which are on the same days. It’s tough but everyone’s free to join in, through that people will move on to Championships etc. For females, Monday and Thursday evenings 7.30pm-8.30pm with Darren Hanley. There’s a ladies circuit class on Sunday’s at 10.30am-11.30am.
Talking about Tranmere for a little moment, as we’re both Rovers fans. What impact do you think Mellon will have upon his return and what have you made of the current squad so far?
Last season wasn’t great, I wasn’t Keith Hill’s biggest fan. I’m no football expert but I know what it’s like to be entertained, he promised us free-flowing football and we got something which was far from it. I’ve been looking forward to this season, I go to all the home games but I’ve only been to Rochdale away this season in terms of away games. There were so many fans there, 1500/1600, whom I felt that the team let down a tiny bit. I think that we should start playing more attacking football. I think the recruitment has been relatively poor but I think we’ve brought in a few good players so I can see the season improving if we manage to build up some positive momentum. Nicky Maynard looks sharp, he’ll score goals in this league. I love Micky Mellon but there’s something that hasn’t clicked thus far.
Micky Mellon is someone who knows and buys into this area which I think stands him in good stead with the fanbase, similar to yourself and what this boxing club stands for.
He knows it. He feels it. He’s one of us even though he’s from Scotland but I believe that he could probably attack more games than he does.
Are there any current success stories from people within this gym that we should keep an eye out on?
Within the lockdown period I had more time to reassess everything, I felt that some things had stagnated so I came up with a roadmap. I put some points down that we had to improve on and more or less everyone bought into the ideas that I had. The coaching team that we have now has a really good ethos and is very tight knit. It’s almost like a wand of fate has been spread as everyone is on fire, it’s very encouraging. At the moment, we’ve got lads in the schoolboy championships. Three are in the quarters and another via a bye has progressed into the semis. All of these fights will be happening in Croxteth on Saturday, there’s a 70-seater bus going from Birkenhead North and there’s a great buzz around the place. We’ve got Ben Burnham making his pro-debut a week on Friday, and things are getting exciting again. You only need to look at the walls for photos of Birkenhead’s boxing history and all of our coaches buy into that.
To finish our conversation, what is your ultimate goal, is there a boxing legacy that you’d like to create which stems from those early stories that your dad would tell you?
I just want to make sure that when I ‘pop my clogs’ there’s a legacy for not only what we’ve done here but for anyone that wants to study Birkenhead boxing and they click the website and it’s all there for them. I used to get stories told to me by my dad, unfortunately he passed away in 2015 and I’m passing my knowledge on so for in many, many years a greatly respected club is passed on to safe, careful hands.
Birkenhead Venture Boxing Club. You can find more about them via https://www.ventureboxing.co.uk/