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Renaud’s gym invites a dash of ‘Controversy’

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Ready to rumble: Christoper, left, lands a punch on fellow Controversy Gym boxer Trey Simons during a sparring session in the basement of Queen's Club, where the gym is now based. Christopher will make his debut at next month's Fight Night XVI

Deep within the bowels of the Queen’s Club is the new home of Controversy Gym, one of Bermuda’s most respected boxing establishments, whose stable of fighters are engaged in an evening of hard sparring.

The days are ebbing away until Teachers Rugby Fight Night XVI: Relentless when six of Controversy’s pugilists will go toe-to-toe with boxers from rival gyms in the pursuit of glory.

Chuck Renaud, Controversy’s most experienced coach, has long maintained that the gym “breeds winners” and is in buoyant mood before the 12-bout card at the Berkeley Institute Gym on Saturday, April 5.

“Like I always say, let our record show,” Renaud said. “We know what we [the coaches] can do and we know what our fighters can do.

“Controversy is No 1 as far as I’m concerned and I want all the guys who train with us to be No 1.

“We’re confident that the boys we’ve entered [in Fight Night] can keep up our good name as they have worked really hard.”

Previously based at a double-duty facility at the end of Mill Creek in Spanish Point — which transformed from a boatyard workshop by day into a boxing gym by night — Controversy moved to Queen’s Club’s basement in December 2012.

While the gym sought a permanent location, the bandstand at the adjacent Victoria Park briefly deputised as a makeshift ring.

Controvery’s no-frills base in the centre of Hamilton has been quite literally a godsend for Renaud, who forms a close-knit coaching team alongside Leo Richardson, whose larger-than-life personality is the heartbeat of the gym, Timothy O’Leary and Nathan Sorrentino.

“We were training in the park in the summer of 2012 when we were approached by the Queen’s Club, asking us if we wanted a gym,” Renaud added. “It was like the man upstairs saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got something for you.’

“It was a bit of wreck and needed a bit of work but we put it together in about 12 days. Then we were up and running.”

Richardson, a formidable amateur fighter in his heyday, who adopted the moniker “Lionheart”, insists that the gym has no interest in making a profit.

He said that the coaches were merely concerned with helping breathe fresh life into a sport that has stagnated on the Island in recent times.

“This gym is about getting the next generation of Bermudian youngsters into boxing,” Richardson said. “I’ve got about a dozen youngsters aged between 12 and 15 training down here after school and they love it!

“It’s great to have a permanent location and we’re thankful to Queen’s Club for blessing us. We keep the membership fees reasonable so everyone can afford it. All we want is to be able to keep the lights turned on.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about getting boxing going again on the Island. If a guy can’t afford the fees, I don’t care. I just tell him to box well.”

Like Renaud, his former mentor, Richardson is confident that Fight Night will yield a healthy number of victories for Controversy’s boxers.

“Everybody fighting in the Controversy corner should do very well because they’ve been putting the work in,” he said. “They have been training for months for this.”

One of those boxers, Callon Burns, will return to the ring after a few years’ hiatus. The 26-year-old, who has an exhibition bout and an amateur bout under his belt, has been pitted against Mark Prior, of Bermuda Karate Institute, who is making his debut.

“I became interested in other things but I recently decided to get back into boxing,” Burns said.

“It’s something I enjoy and I find the fitness side of it rewarding. It’s been a good five years since I last fought, but I’m not nervous at all. I have a little bit of anxiety because I just want to get in there.

“I’m actually more excited about seeing the amount of people who attend; that’s kind of driving me as well. I have a little bit of experience, I know what to expect, and hopefully that will show on the night.”

For Tyler Christopher, 17, Fight Night will mark the first time that he has ventured between the ropes. He will be applying the skills he has honed in the spit-and-sawdust underground gym against Matthew Tannok, of Rego’s Gym, who is also making his debut.

“I feel excited about it and probably a bit cautious at the same time,” said Christopher, who will join stablemates Neil Templeman, Zubair Hasan, Anthony Williams and Justin Tucker on the card.

“Leo and the coaches have got me feeling well prepared and I’ve told my friends to buy their tickets early to come and support me. I boxed at Rego’s for a little bit, but then I came to Controversy and they have taken good care of me.

“I’m enjoying this boxing journey and, hopefully, some other young guys I know might take it up when they see me fight. I need to set the tone for them and show them that it’s doable.”

While the location has changed, the battle-worn faces putting Controversy’s existing batch of boxers through their paces remain the same.

As does the commitment of those coaches and their fighters to continue the gym’s proud reputation of producing winners.

Entry is $50, with VIP tickets priced at $110. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Dante Noel-Simmons Education Fund. Doors open at 6pm, with the action scheduled to get under way at 7pm.

No.1: Controversy Gy coaches Renaud, left, Richardson
Getting ready for Fight Night at Controversy Gym