LAST year, Swindon’s Jamie Cox entered the squared circle in a world title fight against George Groves.

Another Swindon fighter, Luke ‘The Duke’ Watkins claimed, then defended his Commonwealth cruiserweight title, his second crown of the year after scooping the Irish strap.

Throw in the likes of Ryan Martin and ‘Sniper’ Sam Smith and you could say the sport of boxing has created a bit of a buzz in Swindon throughout 2017.

What do they all have in common?

One man in particular has had a hand in all of the above successes - Swindon trainer, Paddy Fitzpatrick, who is celebrating his 10th anniversary since opening a gym in the town.

Swindon Advertiser:
Paddy Fitzpatrick and his charge - Commonwealth cruiserweight champion Luke Watkins

The gym itself is tucked away, out of sight, yet has been something of a hub for Swindon boxing over the last 10 years.

After initially opening premises on Maxwell Street, Fitzpatrick then bought a building on Ferndale Road and has remained there ever since.

The Limerick man said he was labelled a fool when he first opened a gym in the town and revealed he had plenty of work to do in order to realise his dream.

“I got offers to work with guys up in London when I first came back, I turned that down and I like Swindon, I have always liked Swindon,” said Fitzpatrick, who had stints in both Las Vegas and Germany.

“I like the people here. We gave it a go and everyone in boxing said ‘Paddy you’re stupid, there is no professional boxing in Swindon’ and there wasn’t.

“I opened up a professional boxing gym in a town, where there was no professional boxing, so it was a case of taking a risk.

“In the first three years I worked with Jamie (Cox) and the first two years of the gym being open I worked with George (Groves) against James DeGale.

“I’ve had pros come to me from Ireland, Russia and Sweden, every goal I have set I’ve achieved it.”

Swindon Advertiser:
WBA (Super) super-middleweight champion George Groves previously worked with Paddy Fitzpatrick

Despite his obvious success over the last 10 years, Fitzpatrick says there were many people who helped him along the way.

He highlighted the impact of local promoter Keith Mayo, as well as others who have been there for the journey.

The likes of Tommy Gallagher and Sue and Richard Curtis, who built Fitzpatrick’s family home, also feature in his story.

“Due to large efforts from me and Keith, professional boxing is now bouncing in the town,” said Fitzpatrick.

“Now there are other men getting involved in the scene, which is great, the more the merrier. But, with professional boxing being what it is at the moment, that is down to Keith and myself.

“Tom Gallagher walked into the Grove pub on Drove Road just by chance and he said I was nuts for closing the gym on Maxwell Street.

“He said I might be in luck because he had just bought a place and he told me I could do whatever I wanted to do with it.

“I looked at it, it was covered in brambles, human faeces and toilet seats. It was a jungle of crap and had thorns as thick as your thumb.

“Me and a friend of mine, Gurt Singh, chopped and chopped for a week, then I took it over and then we had the grand opening.

“While I was away Rich (Curtis) put me and my wife up in a house for over a year, he is a grown man with plenty to do, yet he still had the time to help me, because he could see what I was trying to do.

“When I first opened the doors I didn’t have anyone. There was no-one for the boys to look at so when Luke (Watkins) and the boys first arrived, they were sparring me, because there was no one else.

“Thankfully he doesn’t hit me anymore, which is a massive relief because I wouldn’t last 30 seconds with the man now.”

Swindon Advertiser:
Paddy Fitzpatrick

After guiding Watkins from complete novice to Commonwealth champion, it is fair to say the duo share a strong relationship.

Watkins is next due in action in Swindon on March 3, along with many of the fighters who train with Fitzpatrick, and the Irishman says his highlight from the last 10 years was provided by the 28-year-old.

“Now when guys come in the gym they are able to see Luke, Sam Smith and Ryan Martin, and compare themselves to those guys,” he said.

“The proudest moment hasn’t been one specific moment. I’ve been spoilt, I have been a pro coach for 20 years now and I love it.

“It’s not any one thing, the proudest thing for me is that I have a place where people feel safe.

“I wouldn’t have met Luke if I didn’t have a gym, but last year he got christened again, and asked me to be his godfather.

“That is one of the proudest moments of my life, and if I was to nail one thing down as my proudest moment, it would be becoming his godfather.”