The Enniskillen Athletic Boxing Club is going from strength to strength, and a year on from its inception it continues to attract people of all ages and abilities.

The club have recently had one of their members crowned as an Ulster champion and the popularity of the club has forced them to move to bigger premises as numbers continue to grow.

“Boxing seems to have exploded recently,” said owner Mark Gaffney.

“I was a bit dubious at the start about how boxing would kick off, especially with Mixed Martial Arts growing, but now it has swung back to boxing and the success of the likes of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua has opened up another market and I can only think it is going to get even bigger.

“I originally opened up close to Asda but it outgrew itself and I had to move to bigger premises on the Tempo Road and I have built up a good stable of boxers now. A lot of the boxers I have had have been complete beginners and I have built them up to be champions and senior finalists, but not everyone wants to compete and be a boxer, and a lot of people just come for fitness. It’s not all about winning titles. People just enjoy the training, or like the sparring, or the pad work. People train like a boxer but don’t actually box. It is a real mixture.”

Mark was an amateur boxer in England, and once he moved to Fermanagh he was looking for a way to pursue his hobby when he had the idea of opening up a boxing club.

“I did MMA first and then transferred over to boxing, but with injuries I had to stop,” he explained.

“When I moved over here I missed the boxing so much that I decided to open a club. There wasn’t really a club in Enniskillen because the one that had been here had closed down so I was quite fortunate to get some ready-made boxers.”

The club now has members aged from seven years old to 48, with programmes designed to cater for all ages and abilities. Mark feels the sessions for the younger children have proved very successful, both inside and outside the ring.

“I try to instil a discipline. It’s not about beating someone up, it’s about respecting one another,” he said. “What I try to do is instil confidence and bring kids out of themselves. It’s not about them learning to fight and the parents will see that straight away if they bring them to classes. It’s about respect. A lot of parents come to me and say ‘I can’t get him off his PlayStation or his Xbox, and he won’t play Gaelic’. Boxing is good to express themselves and I have seen how they have come out of themselves. They are training with one another, and although it’s a single player sport, you train as a team and you have to be looking after one another.

“I can’t think of a better sport to help a kid come out his shell more. It’s what boxing is.”

In addition to the newcomers, Mark also welcomes boxers of varying levels of ability and can provide them with an opportunity to experience stepping into the ring.

“I have two levels of boxers,” he explained. “There are Ulster amateur boxers who will go and compete in Northern and Southern Ireland and I had them in England last year. I have big plans this year and I would like to get them over to Portugal and do a training camp in Tenerife for them. I have a ten year old boy and a ten year old girl who will without a doubt do amazing things. Another lad is 14 and just won the nine counties Ulster Championship so he is one to watch for the future as well. I have a lot of talent there.”

“I also have the boxers who wouldn’t be at that level but they will want to be able to have a boxing match. Every quarter I will set up an event in the Westville Hotel for those that want the experience of stepping into the ring and fighting. Training is so tough, so to keep people motivated they need the goal of a fight in a few months, and profits from these events goes towards mental health.”