Tributes paid to Barry RAF boxing champ and East End ABC founder Henry Brown
TRIBUTES have been paid to former RAF boxing champion and founder of Barry's East End Amateur Boxing Club, Henry Brown, who died on Saturday (September 15) aged 78.
He was described as the ‘driving force’ behind the club, which was founded in 1977, and which he still attended twice a week until a few months ago.
A ‘first class coach’, he inspired hundreds of Barry youngsters over the years.
Henry, of Langlands Road, boxed from an early age and was crowned Youth Welsh Champion in 1949. He joined the RAF in 1952 and was stationed in Germany for two and a half years, during which time he became champion at Lightweight, Light Welterweight and Welterweight divisions, beating champions from France, Belgium, Holland and the USA.
In 1954 he travelled from Germany to England to compete against the English RAF champion, and became the first amateur boxer from Wales to fight live on national TV. He won the fight on points.
He was forced to retire from the ring after a stomach ulcer burst during a fight in Germany, and he soon returned home.
He went on to become a Welsh Amateur Boxing Trainer, coaching at the sports centre on Colcot Road from 1964, and was awarded several certificates from the Borough of Barry thanking him for his voluntary work.
In 1977 he set up the East End boxing gym with lifelong friend Billy Staples and son Tonie.
The club was originally based at the East End Progressive Club on Vere Street, before moving to the old Fire Station, the Admiral pub and, now, above the Windsor pub on Holton Road. His nephew Billy Brown, who helps with coaching at the club, said: "He was a driving force behind it. Everyone helped out but he was the force that got it going.
"He was a disciplinarian and didn’t stand any nonsense, and he knew everything there was to know about boxing."
Julie Penketh, Henry’s 53-year-old daughter, said he was committed to training youngsters.
"He wanted to do everything for the kids," she said.
"Everything had to be as cheap as possible so it was affordable for them. And if they didn’t have the opportunity he would put his own hand in his pocket.
"He always said it was somewhere for the kids to go and take them off the streets."
Leon Lamb, who now runs the gym with his brother Alan, was taught to box by Henry.
"I have known him since I was 12 and I’m 33 now," he said.
"He always made boxing fun and exciting, never boring."
"He was a first class coach, brilliant with the kids and the younger ones, and up until the week before he went to hospital he was coming every week."
Daughter Julie added that he was also a loving family man and enjoyed playing with his grandchildren.
"He was always on the floor fighting with them," she said.
"He used to say if he couldn’t get down on the floor to play with the kids, there was no point in living.
"Boxing was his life," she added.
"All there is upstairs in his house is boxing magazines, videos and books."
Henry was awarded lifetime membership from the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association for his work.
He is survived by two sisters and a brother, six children, 19 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.
* Henry Brown’s funeral is next Thursday (September 27) at AG Adams and Son at 10.30am, then Cardiff and Glamorgan Crematorium at noon, followed by a wake at The Liberal Club on Thompson Street.