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Former Sandygate ABC fighter Singleton hangs up his gloves

Shayne Singleton celebrates winning the English title against Curtis Woodhouse
Shayne Singleton celebrates winning the English title against Curtis Woodhouse
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When you think about the most iconic photos in sporting history, your mind will undoubtedly take you to the image of Muhammad Ali stood triumphantly over Sonny Liston in 1965.

Or you may recall Bobby Moore holding the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft, and the enduring photographs of Terry Butcher in 1989, and Paul Ince in 1997, bloodied and bandaged having helped seal World Cup qualification.

Shayne Singleton is crowned English champion

Shayne Singleton is crowned English champion

Those last examples encapsulates the Bulldog spirit of this proud nation, and encapsulates Shayne Singleton’s successful career in boxing.

Five years ago the former Park High School pupil took his record to 14-0 to become the English super-lightweight champion.

The 28-year-old cut an unrecognisable figure at the final bell following the 10-round war of attrition against former professional footballer Curtis Woodhouse at Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Manchester.

But Singleton was still smiling behind the blood stains and bruising.

A young Shayne Singleton hits the bag at Sandygate ABC

A young Shayne Singleton hits the bag at Sandygate ABC

The cuts above his eyes, a broken nose and fractured knuckles, portrayed his warrior-like traits, that bulldog spirit – an illustration that once adorned his chest.

“That was the most special moment of my career, even though my face and hands were bust up,” said Singleton, who has made the decision to hang up his gloves. “Two fights stand out in my career and this was one of them.

“We were originally fighting in Driffield, where Woodhouse is from. It was re-arranged but at that point I thought it was over, my dream was gone.

“It got re-scheduled for four weeks later in Manchester. I went in and it was a war. He was constantly in my face but I didn’t stand there and allow him to fight his fight.

Shayne with former amateur coach Bob Rosbotham

Shayne with former amateur coach Bob Rosbotham

“I boxed exceptionally, I was superb that night. I’ve tried to box like that since, but I’ve never been able to replicate what I did that night.

“I don’t know what it was, but something special happened to me. I’ve never been able to perform like that again, boxing on the back foot, my movement, I’d perfected that art.

“It was an unbelievable performance behind my jab, spinning off and moving, getting on the ropes. He was in my face and throwing shots but they were hitting my gloves. He was missing a lot.

“The final judge scoring the contest was Steve Gray and at that point I knew the outcome. I’ve studied him and I know what he likes. He likes the jab and he’ll always give a boxer the round over a fighter and he gave me the fight by two points.”

Shayne celebrates victory with coach Karl Ince

Shayne celebrates victory with coach Karl Ince

Singleton added: “They’ll be the iconic photos of my career. There was blood all over. I had three cuts, above both eyes and underneath, I had a broken nose, a fractured and broken hand but what a night.

“When I look back at the pictures I didn’t realise what state my face was in. I proved myself to a lot of people in what was my first main fight.

“It was my first step up and it was a massive ask to move from fighting journeymen, with losing records, to then go on and face Curtis Woodhouse. I stepped up and proved to myself that I had the heart for it.

“It was all blood, guts and glory. It was tough and I showed that I could take it as well as give it. I was a big underdog but I came through.

“I’ll never be able to feel that high again. That feeling was something else. I went close when I knocked out Adil Anwar on Sky but that was a real high.

“I had my belt with me and I was a very happy man. That was the pinnacle of my career and it put me up to third in Britain at 10st but then I had to move up weight.

“The WBC title put me up to 20th in the world rankings, but the main highlight of my career was beating Woodhouse because nobody thought that I could.

“That performance was definitely my career best.”

Singleton had turned to boxing as a nine-year-old, after turning his back on jiu-jitsu.

It all started with a virtual reality head set, a far cry from the technology available today, but it was that gift at Christmas that would shape his future significantly.

In a renovated second-floor gym, above the old Kwik Save site, the Pendle pugilist was introduced to Bob Rosbotham at Sandygate Amateur Boxing Club.

The rest, as they say, is history. “I was a bit wild as a youngster,” said Singleton. “I used to go to jiu-jitsu but one Christmas I remember getting one of those virtual reality headsets, a boxing game.

“I remember playing with it in the living room and I was going crazy on this machine. My Dad told me that he’d take me to a boxing gym and it all went from there really. I went down to Sandygate and things moved on.

“I was nine. I remember walking in and meeting Bob. I told him that I wanted to be a boxer.

“He told me to put my hands up and stand in my boxing position but, obviously, I didn’t have a clue. Bob started working with me, working on my jab, that’s what he told me to concentrate on 100%.

“From the early days I just remember mastering that left jab. He drilled me with the basics and it was all about that jab. Bob loved the jab and he loved a left hook. He’s a legend.

“Bob had me from day one, from the minute I walked in there.

“I started doing bits with Andy Howcroft and John Bradshaw afterwards. They were the three main coaches who I was involved with at Sandygate.

“I owe Bob everything. He’s been a legend from day dot. Even turning professional and being with Karl Ince for 10 years I’ll still always remember Bob.

“If Bob wanted to train his boxers like fighters, then I would have become a fighter. Who knows where I would have been then.

“Bob trained me how to box, how to get behind that jab. Everything that I learnt in those early months came from him and that is what has stuck with me.

“I’ve taken it in from day one through to 18 years later. He turned me in to the boxer that I am. I thank Bob a lot.”

He added: “I had a good bond with Bob, we had a very good friendship.

“It was his way or no way at all. He’d say things how they were and he’d always be himself.

“He was confident in himself, in his decisions.The thing that I really liked about Bob was the fact that he was always straight to the point. There was no messing around, no cutting corners, he’d tell you how it was.

“I remember my first amateur fight at Old Trafford like it was yesterday. We were late for the show, and Bob said ‘this is the last time I’m coming to a boxing show. I’m finished.’

We were late. Everything was crazy, traffic was bad and a lot of stress had been built up.

“That always sticks out because he was that upset and frustrated with what was going on. He wanted to call it a day but after getting my first win he obviously stuck by me and we went on and I ended up having 36 amateur fights with Bob.”

Ronnie Heffron and Anthony Leak obstructed Singleton’s progression in the amateur ranks, with the pair contributing to five of his seven defeats which curtailed his England hopes.

With Singleton unable to impact on the international radar, he embarked on a European tour with John Hart before being introduced to Karl Ince by former Sandygate stablemate Stuart McFadyen.

“I won 29 out of 36 amateur bouts, he said. “I got beat off Ronnie Heffron three times and beat off Anthony Leak twice. I came out with credit in all those fights but I just couldn’t get through those two.

“From Sandygate, having been there for nine years in total, I ended up going away with John Hart, whose club was Bolton Lads and Girls. I fought abroad in Denmark and places like that with him.

“After that Stuart McFadyen took me to Karl Ince’s gym for a session and he said that he could work with me. I boxed as an amateur with him for a little bit while he developed me in to a pro-style boxer.

“I told Bob and he told me to go for it. He told me that it’s what I had to do if I wanted to progress and move on.

“Things started to get serious for me then and that’s when I started living the life of a boxer. That’s when it really hit home; I couldn’t go out as a teenager, I couldn’t have a takeaway.

“I fought Ronnie Heffron again in the ABA semi-finals and got beat off him again which forced me to make the decision of turning professional. I had another six to eight months training and then I made my professional debut.”

He added: “It was tough to start with because I was already in that sort of a lifestyle where I was going out with my friends and drinking. It was hard to lock myself away.

“I had to try and keep myself occupied to try and make myself stay in. It was tough but the reality kicked in that I was going to become a professional boxer.

“My friends didn’t see me for months and months but they were all still there when I was selling tickets for my fight. I knew how much that I wanted to be a professional boxer.

“I stayed in on a Saturday night, with my mates ringing me and texting me, because I wanted to get up early in the morning to go for a run up Trawden. I wanted to move forward.”

And those sacrifices would ultimately shape Singleton’s future in the sport.

l Read more about Singleton’s professional debut, his career and inspirations in next Friday’s Express Sport.