NESTLED IN THE industrial hinterland surrounding St Marys football ground – where the Saints go marching in on a Saturday (traditionally, anyway) – lies the new home of Southampton boxing and four of Queensberry’s finest young prospects.
Named with a big nod to its founder, ‘Batten’s Boxing’ is a superbly appointed facility set over two storeys, complete with a balcony overlooking the ring. It is the long-awaited stuff of dreams for trainer Wayne Batten, who is now in full control of his fistic enterprise.
Batten has been something of a nomad since learning the coaching ropes from fellow South Coaster and veteran boxing sage Ronnie Davies. He was very much in the rental and sharing marketplace, until now, with the windows of his new premises embossed with his boxing brand.
“I am really happy and it has been a long time coming, to be honest,” reflected Batten. “I’ve always shared a gym over the years and finally I’ve got my own premises now. Hopefully it is the beginning of a real exciting journey.
“We want to be recognised as the home of boxing in Southampton and have that identity, while we are only 200 yards from the football club itself and we can see the roof from the gym. From the other side I can see the roof of where I first started in a school in a community hall.
“It feels nice that I am bang in the middle in a wonderful premises now,” added the just turned 49-year-old, who went to explain his route into training fighters courtesy of the man famous for masterminding the success of Chris Eubank.
“I used to run an amateur club back in the early 2000s and there was a professional boxer there at the time called Henry Castle, who was managed and trained by Ronnie. I got involved with Henry and started working with Ronnie, who became my mentor and like a father-figure, and he has taught me so much. He gave me the opportunity to be where I am now, really.
“Ronnie is 75 now and still doing it, so I hope I am in that position in a sport I love so much and hopefully get to the level he has in boxing. He is always still there now for me at the end of a phone and the experience he has got is priceless. You can’t beat a wise old head and that is what Ronnie is – along with my long-term friend and cutsman Frank Hopkins – and I am very, very lucky they are both there for me.”
It is Batten’s new centre of excellence that will play host to the development of a young crop of Queensberry fighters of immense promise. Ryan Garner, the cheeky 10-0 super feather who calls himself the Piranha, was Batten’s original star pupil from his current crop, while Mark Chamberlain crosses the coastal divide to train in Southampton from his home in Waterlooville, near Portsmouth.
‘MarkyBoy’ as he now seems to be known, has really pushed himself to the forefront in recent times and was, in fact, the first home fighter back in a British ring following the first 2020 lockdown for his emphatic win over Stu Greener on July 9.
The 22-year-old, who is 8-0, is really making people sit up and take notice, not least for his bludgeoning power. In his last fight he blasted out Jordan Ellison in just over a minute. The only other to do this to Ellison in the first round was Zelfa Barrett – and he took a minute longer.
Chamberlain is now on the cusp of taking a big step forward.
Two other young hopefuls make up Batten’s Queensberry squad of four, with the Frankham cousins – Josh and Levi – now having turned professional and holding records of 3-0 and 1-0 respectively.
Boxing is a full-time business for Batten and he also devotes time to improving the prospects of a clutch of top young amateurs, who are approaching the age of 18 with a view to turning professional.
“I know it is easy to say, but I think this is the best shape and mental state that Ryan Garner has ever been in,” Batten revealed on his most senior member, who returned to the ring with victory over the aforementioned Ellison a couple of weeks back.
“A few things have changed in his personal life, which is the best thing that could have happened to him, as far as I am concerned. It is still early days, but I am confident this is the start of a new journey. It is surreal, we are in a new premises near the football ground and it has always been our goal and vision for him to have a big fight there.
“I do believe everything happens for a reason, he is just 23 and the stop-start we have had might work in our favour because he has now matured and in a couple of years we can be where we wanted to be.
“When we get some momentum, with back-to-back fights, we will really see the best of Ryan.
“Mark is a showstopper and it was the perfect punch in his last fight,” Batten continued on lightweight Chamberlain. “When he first came to me he used to go head-hunting quite a lot because Mark is an aggressive fighter and he thought punching people in the head was the way to go.
“But I always say to him that the head moves and the body doesn’t, but him leading with that body punch did surprise me a little bit. I thought we were looking at four or five rounds and Jordan did say to me that the shot almost made him black out.
“Mark has been one of the very, very lucky ones over the last year and I thank Frank for that, I really do. He has been very fortunate and he has developed from that and made the most of the activity. I’ll tell you this, him and Ryan had a spar a few weeks back and it was the best Mark Chamberlain I have ever seen. Ryan brought the best out in him and it was the first time I have sparred them together since they started working with me.
“I would like to see a bit more variety from Josh Frankham. He is a work in progress as a young welterweight, but I think he is a little bit caught in two minds over what he actually is in terms of style and building his own identity as a fighter.
“He is very intelligent, Josh. The penny is starting to drop and I am looking forward to seeing his development.
“I’ve been working with Levi Frankham for a year now and I am still getting to know him. He is a reserved individual but he is not shy in the ring and is heavy-handed. He will be exciting and has plenty of fight in him. There is nothing not to like about a big-at-the-weight southpaw who can punch.”
For Wayne Batten, it is now home sweet new home.