Kettering boxing legend not throwing the towel in just yet
Dave Wallington is one of the finest boxers Kettering has ever produced.
He represented his country 25 times and won a national title in 1969.
It would have been very easy to walk away from the sport after his last bout in 1972 and dine out on that success forever.
But, 47 years later, the 72-year-old is still involved and is as hungry as ever.
He is joint head coach at his club, Kettering Amateur Boxing Club (Kettering ABC) in Regent Street, and is there four days a week coaching youngsters.
He said: “It’s been something I’ve done for so long that it’s just part of my life.”
The Northants Telegraph visited the impressive set-up as dozens of children were put through their paces.
It was a far cry from the surroundings that Dave learned his discipline in as a youngster.
In 1962, when he was a teenager, Dave started training in a condemned cottage in Burton Latimer’s High Street.
With no electricity he paid his subs by providing candles to light the training camp, where he took part in four fights.
His talent as a heavyweight was soon recognised and he moved to Keystone Boys’ Club in Kettering under the watchful eye of trainer Clive Hall. He moved down to light-heavyweight and his southpaw stance made him a tricky opponent. He won a Midland Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) title in 1966 before making the national ABA quarter-final in 1967 and then the semi-final in 1968.
But it was the further drop to middleweight that paid off and wrote his name into the history books.
In 1969 he was the national ABA champion when he stopped London’s Billy Wilson.
With a wry smile, he said: “Everyone was scared of him but I wasn’t.
“He was a boxer who liked punching people but didn’t like getting punched.”
The win puts him alongside other ABA middlewight champions including household names such as Carl Froch, Joe Calzaghe and Nigel Benn.
Dave, who still gets on the pads, prided himself on boxing to win and idolised Rocky Marciano.
And it was that style and determination that saw him box 25 times for England, at times in the same team as Kettering’s Clive Hogben, across the Europe.
He won two fights at the 1969 European Games in Bucharest, losing to the eventual silver medal winner Rene Vitaman of Finland.
He spoke of his pride at representing his country but poor eyesight prevented him from becoming a professional.
He said: “I couldn’t turn pro because I’m short-sighted.
“My eyes were good enough for amateur boxing but not quite for professional stuff.”
Given his eyesight his record was quite remarkable.
In 140 career fights he was stopped just once - when he miscalculated the referee’s count.
His career came to an end in the 1971/72 ABA semi-finals when he lost on points to Alan Minter, who went on to become an Olympic medallist and world champion.
After six months away from the ring he started helping his old trainer Clive Hall coach youngsters and has been training ever since.
He’s held almost every role including assistant trainer, helper and head coach, training Micky Costello as an amateur.
He took hundreds of youngsters under his wing including current joint head coach at Kettering ABC Ashley Taylor, who first met Dave in the 1980s.
Ashley said: “I went through a rough time when my dad passed away and Dave took me under his wing.
“I’ve been forever grateful to him since.
“He kept me on the straight and narrow and he’s done that for so many kids over the years that have come through the doors.”
Dave, a retired lifeguard and gym instructor, founded Kettering ABC in 1995.
They moved from their old base near the railway line to their Regent Street home in 2003.
Club coach Hayden Hull said: “You say the name Dave Wallington and they say ‘oh I know Dave’.
“He’s had a brilliant impact on the community and will give anyone a chance.”
Martyn Cherry has been training for 40 years and said Dave has changed lives.
He said: “He’s just a legend. He’s been through quite a lot of changes but just gets stronger and stronger.
“He’s given the kids something to do and got them off the streets.”
Kettering ABC has a heavyweight champion in Dan Wade, is seeing a rapid increase in the popularity of women’s boxing and has so many juniors on their books they can’t take on any more until further notice.
Amateur boxing is a sport fraught with arguments, splits and breakaways, underpinned by the divide between the ABA, who are now called England Boxing, and the Alliance.
But Dave is still going strong and isn’t hanging up the gloves yet.
He said: “Every time I have a bad day I go home and think about giving it up.
“But then I’m back there again the next day.”