David Parkin pays tribute to two top men, spots celebrities and encounters a naked lawyer

FAREWELL then Brendan Ingle.

The eccentric Irishman forged five world champions in his gym perched on a steep hill in the Wincobank area of Sheffield.

“Prince” Naseem Hamed, Johnny “The Entertainer” Nelson, Clinton Woods, Junior Witter and Kell Brook were trained by Brendan in the St Thomas’s Boys & Girls Club along with talented contenders such as Herol “Bomber” Graham and Ryan Rhodes.

But so were hundreds of others who never made it to the pinnacle of the sport but gained so much in life from their experience with him.

Ingle died two weeks ago at the age of 77.

I was fortunate to spend some time with him when I was a student journalist and I suggested to the editor of Boxing News, the late Harry Mullan, that I go to Sheffield and interview a three-fight novice called Naseem Hamed who had the skills and the cocky confidence of Muhammad Ali.

His trainer, Dublin-born Ingle, showed me around his gym, making sure no photographs were taken of the lines and circles painted on the wooden floor – which he used for carefully crafted footwork drills.

Brendan told me how he had first seen Naz as a seven-year-old. Ingle was sitting on the top deck of a bus and saw a fight going on in a school playground.

Hamed, the son of Yemeni immigrants, was dwarfed by much bigger boys but was still giving them a pasting.

Ingle persuaded his father to bring him along to his gym and that was the start of the story of one of Britain’s most talented boxing champions.

Ingle’s love for his sport never blinded him to the dangers of it and he cared deeply for all the boys and girls who trained at his gym.

His quirky sense of humour saw him give daft names to some of his fighters, such as Slugger O’Toole, a talented middleweight who adopted the defensive style much associated with boxers from the Ingle stable.

Mind you, he didn’t really need a catchy ring monicker given his real name was Fidel Castro Smith.

Brendan used to take his boxers to events where he would challenge members of the public to try and hit them.

Leeds mixed martial arts and boxing coach John Higo remembers being involved in a telethon many years ago at Harewood house when Prince Naseem was an unknown.

“But his companions were Johnny Nelson and another boxer named Fidel Castro, they had a boxing ring set up in the open air near the beer tent and basically members of the public were invited to step in the ring and try to land a punch on the three boxers and they could pick the fighter of their choice, obviously Naseem due to his tiny stature was in great demand from inebriated fat blokes leaving the beer tent, it was comedy gold that Mack Sennett would have been proud of!”

John says not one person managed to land a punch on Hamed.

And that was Brendan Ingle’s philosophy – he cared about his boxers and taught them it was always better to avoid being hit.


IT was awful to hear news of the death of Barry Dodd CBE, the Lord-Lieutenant for North Yorkshire and a well known and successful businessman.

Barry was killed when the helicopter he was piloting crashed into a field near Boroughbridge on Wednesday.

I was only speaking to Barry and his wife Frances a couple of weeks ago when I met them at the launch of the Tour de Yorkshire.

Always a warm and generous man, he told me how much he enjoyed my blogs and we chatted about how, despite him being known more as a Yorkshire businessman, he had grown up in America, where his parents still live and he owns a successful business.

There was no need for Barry to pay me a compliment but that was the kind of man he was.

Very successful in business, founding the GSM Group, he also was committed to public service and had been the driving force behind the creation of the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and was proud to be the Queen’s representative for North Yorkshire.

Business people often don’t get enough credit for the good they do. Barry was recognised for his efforts and deservedly so.

He made an impact doing the right thing and he’ll be hugely missed.


I HAD an experience this week that I’ve never had before.

No, not like that.

I was on the London Underground and somebody spoke to me.

That has never happened before.

Previously, I acted like every other commuter and boarded the Tube and either read a newspaper or looked blankly along the carriage, always trying to avoid making eye contact with any fellow traveller.

However standing on a crowded tube train, a chap, staring intently at the yellow badge on my jacket lapel, said: “What does the Y stand for?”

I explained I’m an ambassador for Welcome to Yorkshire and it it all about promoting the county.

“So it is just about Yorkshire, not a secretive cult,” I added.

“I’d quite like to be part of a cult,” he said, grinning manically at me.

I got off at the next stop and vowed never to make eye contact with anyone on the tube again.


I HAD not visited London for a few months and the last time I returned on the train, former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker was in the same carriage.

He was with his son and got off the train at Retford.

There must be a song in that.

Bizarrely when I got off the train at King’s Cross in the middle of a torrential downpour this week, I scurried down the stairs to the Underground and who was the first person I saw walking towards the ticket barriers – Jarvis again.

It was a bit of a celebrity spotting trip as walking along Piccadilly I saw broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and then former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind striding down Jermyn Street in tweeds.

“Never mind the celebrities you’ve seen, I’ll give you a bit of London trivia for your blog,” said my friend Dick Matthews, a veteran foreign exchange trader who is writing a book about his exploits and the characters he encountered during 40 years in the London financial markets.

“If you walk out of this pub, turn left at the lights, you’ll see Queen Victoria’s Elephant House.”

“Pardon?” I replied.

“When I was a lad my Dad, who was an East End docker, used to take me to see this magnificent building in Mayfair and he told me that it was where Queen Victoria used to keep her elephants that she used to ride around London on.”

The story, which is still often recounted by cabbies in the capital, is that Victoria acquired the elephants when she was appointed Empress of India, having received a herd of elephants as a gift from loyal Maharajas.

The animals were then shipped back to London and the Elephant House was built to provide them animals with some kind of comfortable habitat.

The design has huge gates where an elephant could easily get in and out and has entrance doors that have an eastern looking appearance.

However Dick informed me that sadly the truth is much less interesting.

The building, on Brown Hart Gardens, off Duke Street, not far from Claridges, was designed by an imaginative Victorian architect but served simply as an electricity substation to generate power for the Mayfair area.


I HAD an encounter with a naked lawyer this week.

I bumped into Chrissie Lightfoot when I was checking into a hotel in the City of London.

She writes and speaks under the very creative and intriguing title of the Naked Lawyer.

And while she keeps her clothes on at all times, it certainly helps generate work from lawyers looking for inspiration and something a bit different.

Chrissie’s latest venture is Robot Lawyer LISA – the world’s first impartial robot lawyer.

LISA’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology enables clients to create legally binding agreements without the need to speak to a human lawyer.

It sounds fascinating and certainly represents an exciting development in a profession sometimes short of innovation.

However I prefer my lawyers human.

Well, robots can’t buy a round.

Have a great weekend.

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