A BOXING coach from South Tyneside is planning a knockout literary punch with his ringside sporting memoir.
Martyn Devlin, 53, head of Bilton Hall Amateur Boxing Club (ABC), Jarrow, has rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest personalities in the fight game.
As an organiser of sporting dinners, he brought such boxing legends as Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns to Tyneside and the UK.
While putting his own money and nerves on the line during such visits, Mr Devlin also kept a detailed written diary of his encounters with several world boxing champions, plus their various lawyers and hangers-on.
Now he is planning to get his boxing book fight-fit for publication.
Running to about 70,000 words and containing many rare and previously unseen photographs, the book will tell how a Jarrow lad managed to persuade some of the best fighters in the world to make tracks to Tyneside.
But as his memoir makes clear, it was not always plain sailing with some of the kings of the ring.
Mr Devlin, a former talented amateur light welterweight and middleweight fighter, said one of his worst moments came when Roberto Duran, a world boxing champion at lightweight, welterweight, light middleweight and middleweight, refused to greet Newcastle fans at St James’s Park.
Known as a volatile street fighter from the back streets of Panama, Duran declined to co-operate with the Jarrow boxing coach and promoter.
He said: “I had arranged for Duran to go out and be introduced to the fans at half-time, but when we got to St James’s Park, he just whispered something to his lawyer and refused to go inside.”
But Mr Devlin generally had a very good relationship with Duran, and was invited out to the fighter’s retirement bash in Panama.
One of the benefits of his time as a leading talks promoter was the close bonds he forged with some of the greatest names in boxing history – who often went the extra mile to help the Jarrow fight fan.
US boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, who held world titles at five different weight divisions, thrilled young South Tyneside fighters when he agreed to visit the home of Bilton Hall ABC, at Low Simonside Community Centre, Jarrow, in 2005, where Mr Devlin has coached youngsters for 28 years.
Leonard, whose boxing genius had lit up some of the biggest sporting venues on the planet, happily chatted to teenage boxers and posed for photographs at the gym, in the middle of a South Tyneside council estate.
This and many other boxing moments are featured in Mr Devlin’s memoir, a copy of which he has already deposited with Newcastle University library.
Mr Devlin said: “While on tour, I used to jot down a few notes at the end of each day and over the years I’ve put these into book form.
“But I’ve never had the time to put it together professionally, so it has been lying on a shelf for about five years. However, I’m sure there is maybe a student, trainee sports journalist or retired fight fan who would perhaps have the time to put it all together.”
Anyone interested should contact Mr Devlin on 0775 251 5280.