Former Super-featherweight boxer Sam Larkin has opened Kay's Boxing Academy

"Good coaches and good managers are good thieves!"

Friday, 24th January 2020, 8:00 am

That phrase, recycled by Sean Dyche in a conversation with Joey Barton, was used to suggest that those at the top of their game take bits and pieces from the individuals that have influenced their life to mould their own styles and philosophies.

And former professional boxer Sam Larkin will be putting that theory to the test after turning his hand to teaching.

The 28-year-old, who fought at super-featherweight, recently opened Kay's Boxing Academy having been forced to retire from the sport with a brain injury last year.

Kay's Boxing Academy coach Sam Larkin and Burnley Express sports reporter Dan Black

Larkin has absorbed a wealth of knowledge from a lifetime of combat, owing to collaborations with some of the most well-regarded mentors in the region.

He's worked with the iconic Burt Myers at Finsley Gate ABC, enhanced his ring craft alongside Sandygate ABC stalwart Bob Rosbotham, soaked up the expertise of Andy Howcroft and

Brian Roche while also learning from Alex Matvienko and his team at Elite Boxing in Bolton. John Brindle, John Bradshaw and Shane Armer have also played their part.

Larkin's education has had an eclectic mix of contributors over decades of involvement and now he's hopeful that others can benefit from such a vast and detailed anthology.

Former Super-featherweight boxer Sam Larkin

The former Park High School pupil, who was victorious in two of his three contests, said: "Nothing is like fighting. It's been six months since I've had my licence revoked and I've tried a lot.

"I've tried rock climbing, I've tried fell running, I ran up Pendle Hill every day for a month, I've tried everything, but nothing has cut it yet.

"I'm getting a massive buzz off helping people and training lads, women, kids, teenagers and passing on the knowledge of boxing that I've learned over the past few years.

"It's a good buzz, but nothing will compare to walking out to that ring and I'm gutted that I'll never be able to do it again.

Dan Black

"I've learned a lot, I've boxed at a lot of amateur gyms, especially in Burnley. The first gym I was at was with Burt Myers at Finsley Gate ABC when I was six-years-old, I moved on to

Sandygate ABC and boxed under Bob Rosbotham, there's been Andy Howcroft, I've done a bit at Brian Roche's and when I turned pro I started to learn a lot at Elite.

"It's a very knowledgeable gym with a knowledgeable team and I learned a hell of a lot there. There's Alex Matvienko, Scott Mitchell, Sean Fogg, Tom McNeil, even the lads who are there.

"When you walk in to the gym it's full of top kids, who you already know about. When I went in for my trial day, Alex threw me in the ring with Ryan Doyle - former English and Commonwealth champion - and, having not sparred for two years, it was like 'wow, this is it'. He then offered to train me. I got some good days out of it.

"I'm still learning myself. You can never stop learning in boxing. There's a lot involved and I was only just getting going. My knowledge is still fresh and that's why the gym is booming.

"I'm fresh on the scene, I'm fresh out of the gym, I'm keen, I'm passionate, I love the sport. I'll always love the sport, I'll never be out of it."

Boxing is in Larkin's DNA. He eats, sleeps and breathes boxing. It's been in his family for generations - ever since his granddad, Terry Banning, fronted Cambridge ABC in Colne.

Banning competed in 269 rounds over 46 bouts in the welterweight division during a tenure that spanned from April 8th, 1957, a debut against Johnny Maher at Walsall Town Hall, to June 17th, 1963, when he took on Terry Phillips at the National Sporting Club in Piccadilly.

Larkin's uncle, Sean Banning, was also a top amateur fighter. "I'm involved in the sport now and I'm getting a buzz out of it," he said.

"The gym is booming and this town is full of talent. There hasn't been an amateur gym since Cambridge ABC, which my granddad [Terry Banning] owned about 50 years ago.

"There hasn't been anything in Colne since then so I'm ready to get going now. A lot of old amateur boxers from Colne, Burnley and the surrounding areas boxed for my granddad.

"He was a professional fighter turned coach and my uncle [Sean Banning] was a top amateur. It's in the family and I feel like I've found my feet with the coaching.

"I've been around boxing all my life, it's in my DNA. It's difficult at first because being a boxer doesn't guarantee that you'll be a fit for teaching or coaching, but I've found my feet now and I love it."

Larkin's life changed completely following a regulatory check up at the Manchester Institute of Health and Performance.

Specialists picked up on an abnormality on his MRI scan, which transpired to be a bleed on the brain, leaving officials on the British Boxing Board of Control no other option but to revoke his licence.

His contest against George Brennan at the Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre in Wythenshawe was pulled as a result and he was forced to come to terms with the fact that his career was over just as it was getting going.

"I'm still not over it and I don't think I ever will be," said Larkin. "I'd gone from being an amateur boxer through most of my childhood and teenage years to finally turning professional after having a break from the sport.

"I chased that dream, achieved that goal, and I joined Elite Boxing. They looked after me and they were taking me to some very well known gyms.

"I was sparring at Jamie Moore's against Sean McGoldrick, lads who I'd watched on TV, I was living the dream. Then three fights in I had it all taken away from me, which annoyed me.

"But a brain injury is very serious and I've got a son [Tommy] to think about so you're better off safe than sorry."

Larkin harboured hopes and aspirations of landing a belt at 130lbs, but a change of direction has encouraged him to stamp new dreams on his canvas.

Working out of a facility in Greenfield Road, Colne, which is shared with JR Fitness, he'll now look to blood champions of his own.

Larkin said: "This year we'll get affiliated with the ABA and go from there. We want to create some champions.

"There's loads of talent in the town and my plan is to get them in the gym and sort them out. I did it, I got offered a shot and I snapped it up with both hands. I stepped up to that level and I want to help other people do that.

"For the club to be affiliated with the ABA, I need to get my coaching badges. I'm in the process of doing that and I shouldn't struggle with it.

"I took some of them down to Sandygate ABC last week and they loved it. Some of them haven't even been inside a ring before.

"Alex [Matvienko] has been asking me to take some lads over to his gym. It's all a learning curve, you don't have to be at the highest level to go to another gym and spar.

"I've got a few lads ready to go now so by the summer we'll definitely have lads in the amateurs. We've got all the bases covered."