Tributes to much-loved founder of Islington Boxing Club
After the death of his daughter in a freak accident, Ron Hagland helped launch club ‘that would take over his life’
23 March, 2018 — By Emily Finch
Ron with grandson Reggie and son Lenny, who said: ‘My father tried to help people where he could’
AFTER being struck by family tragedy, Ron Hagland answered a newspaper advert that changed the course of his life and those of thousands of youngsters in Islington.
Mr Hagland, one of the founding members of Islington Boxing Club, died last Thursday from pneumonia. He was 86.
He set up the popular club, formerly based in King’s Cross but now in Upper Holloway, in January 1974 after his five-year-old daughter Lynn was killed in a freak accident at his scrapyard in Stoke Newington.
“The club was his world,” said his son Lenny, 53, who took over chairmanship of the club from his father a few years ago.
“He needed something to take his mind off my sister’s death. He volunteered to start up the boxing club and it would take over his life. At the time, he needed to get out of the house. It stood him well.”
Thousands of youngsters have passed through the doors of the distinctive red cabin, allowing them, like Mr Hagland, to leave their troubles behind.
“Boxing seems to change a lot of people’s lives. You need to be disciplined to box. In football, you have a team sharing out the work but in boxing you only have yourself,” said Lenny.
Over its 40-year history Mr Hagland steered his beloved club through difficult times to triumph. Initially, King’s Cross Amateur Boxing Club, it was based in a community centre in York Way Court.
Membership exploded and the club moved to the Sobell Centre, in Holloway, renaming itself Islington Boys’ Club.
Ron with the Essex Boys and Girls Club Platinum award in 2014 for his work with Islington Boxing Club
It moved to its current home in Hazellville Road in 1981 after Mr Hagland’s lengthy fight to gain permission from the council to change the building’s use from office to sports club. The club now boasts one of largest numbers of female boxers in the country.
Mr Hagland retired in 2000 but remained honorary secretary and treasurer until two years ago. Although he sold his scrapyard and moved to Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, the club was never far from his mind.
“I went to visit him earlier this month and the first thing he said to me was:‘How is the club going?’, not ‘How are you?’,” said Lenny, who became an amateur boxer thanks to his father.
He described his father as a “very loyal man who wanted to achieve”. He added: “My father tried to help people where he could.”
Mr Hagland’s grandson Reggie, 27, also paid tribute to “the best person in the world”. “I’m not being cheesy but he really was the best,” he added. “He was the best teacher I ever had and I credit him for giving me knowledge in boxing and life.”
After years of concentrating more on football, Reggie was spurred on by his grandfather to drop into a club committee meeting when he was 14.
“I gained an education and never looked back,” said Reggie, now manager of the club.
Head coach Jerry Mitchell, 59, who has taught at the club for more than 30 years, also paid tribute to his friend and former colleague. He said: “Ron was a no-nonsense person, in a nice way. We would have a laugh. Ron’s club has taken kids off the street and turned them away from gangs. He’s the reason why I started coaching as he encouraged me after I quit boxing from a shoulder injury. He gave me a respectable job.”
More than 500 people have paid their condolences through social media, letters and emails to the club, showing the huge impact Mr Hagland had on Islington. He is survived by wife Maureen, children Lenny and Gina, and grandchildren Reggie, Millie, Sachia, Lorena and Alysia.
The funeral cortege will leave the boxing club at 1pm on April 13 for a service at Marylebone Crematorium at 2pm. A wake will take place at Forty Hall, Forty Hill, Enfield NE2 9HA after the service.