Boxing: Bob and Steve Kipps leave lasting legacy

Former WBO world middleweight champion Jason Matthews with coaches Bob Kipps (left) and Steve Kipps

Former WBO world middleweight champion Jason Matthews with coaches Bob Kipps (left) and Steve Kipps (right). - Credit: Archant

The father-and-son team of Bob and Steve Kipps finally called time after 38 years, predominantly spent as boxing coaches at the Crown & Manor Club in Wiltshire Row, Hoxton in February 2015.

Their final night at the club effectively closed the senior boxing section, with Steve Kipps at that time saying: “There is no animosity in our departure, simply much sadness and real disappointment in that spatial and other restrictions we have encountered following the recent rebuilding of the club have made it impossible for us to continue there properly in our capacity as senior coaches in the boxing section.

“Both of us have had great times at the club, involving many major successes and some bitter disappointments too. Bbut it has been a great experience over the years and we wish the club and all its members all the very best for the future.”

Steve Kipps was a successful boxer at the club before joining his father in a coaching role there and they worked and helped many illustrious names in local boxing, many of whom have become household names at home and abroad.

Perhaps one of the best known is the bravest of the brave, namely Michael Watso,n who won a professional Commonwealth middleweight crown followed by three unsuccessful world title tilts, the last of which almost cost him his life.

Watson was at the club in his early amateur days and began to learn his trade there which would provide him with a vital grounding for the many future ring successes he achieved.

Arguably Bob and Steve’s greatest success came in the shape of Hackney’s Jason Matthews and Stoke Newington – via Zimbabwe – boxer Ian Napa.

Most Read

Wearing the Crown & Manor vest and head guard, Matthews won the ABA Senior 75kg championship in 1995, followed by Napa in 1997 who landed the ABA Senior 48kg title.

They remain the club’s only ”true” ABA Senior champions as Peter Longo, a club member, won his Senior ABA middleweight crown when boxing for the Army in 1950.

Both Matthews and Napa subsequently turned professional and remained with the Kipps family and secured further ring success; although Napa subsequently joined another local trainer in Brian Lawrence, and continued to add further titles to his ring portfolio.

Matthews won the WBO Inter Continental middleweight belt, followed by the Commonwealth middleweight title and also the WBO world middleweight crown before retiring.

Napa won the Southern Area flyweight belt with the Kipps duo and made an unsuccessful challenge for the then original WBU flyweight title against holder Peter Culshaw.

He went on to win British bantamweight titles and a Lonsdale Belt too as well as a European bantamweight crown on Lawrence’s watch, but the foundations for such success had been firmly laid in his Crown & Manor days and his early paid career with the Kipps family.

He too has since retired from the ring but both men are fine examples of successful boxers who learned their trade at their local boxing club under the expert tutelage of Bob and Steve Kipps and then achieved further success when punching for pay.

In their early days at the club the eloquent and skilful Sylvester Mittee won a Class B Junior ABA title in 1973, later moving to Bethnal Green’s Repton Club where he won a Senior ABA lightweight crown in 1976, followed by British and Commonwealth welterweight championships in the professional ranks.

Also in 1973 and also in the Class B category, Steve Taylor made it a winning double for the Crown & Manor Club.

Many other amateur boxers have passed through under the ever watchful eyes of Bob and Steve Kipps, most of whom did not land any particular titles of real note, but two are particularly worthy of a mention.

The eccentrically athletic and very versatile West African amateur cruiserweight Chuks Obidaniel, who arguably might have achieved more in the amateur ranks, was something of a gymnast in the ring, usually undertaking ring sommersaults at the conclusion of his bouts.

Simeon Cover who notched up no fewer than 76 contests in the paid ranks, including landing the British Masters super-middleweight title, also learned much from days at the club and both were very good entertainers in the ring, no one can ask for more than that.

One of Bob and Steve Kipps’ more recent projects involved former club boxer Matthew Chanda, originally from Zambia, who won three London Senior Novice titles and Class A and Class B 57kg National Senior Novice titles in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Chanda was also a Haringey Box Cup gold medalist in 2008, before eventually deciding to punch for pay in 2014 and winning the vacant Southern Area super-bantamweight crown in March 2016, outpointing Jamie Speight for that belt.

He eventually lost a very tight split points decision at the hands of unbeaten Ghanaian Duke Micah for the vacant Commonwealth championship at York Hall in November 2016 and has been inactive since then, with his paid record standing at seven victories with just one loss.

Bob Kipps is now 81 years of age and still has a great appetite for the fight game, like Steve, and together they are now handling the professional coaching and training regimes of unbeaten super-featherweight Liam Dillon.

A successful amateur with Waltham Forest ABC, Dillon developed well under the expert guidance of the Kipps men and has a paid record of nine victories and one draw, already winning the Southern Area super-featherweight championship.

Dillon was due to challenge Dennis Wahome for the vacant English super-featherweight title when the coronavirus pandemic struck, forcing the cancellation of Steve Goodwin’s York Hall promotion on March 21.

After a lifetime spent looking after hundreds of junior and senior aspirants alike at the Crown & Manor Club, Bob and Steve will be sorely missed, but fondly remembered by those they have helped in the sport’s hardest game, whether they achieved ring success or not.

The London amateur boxing scene and beyond will be much poorer for their departure from the Crown & Manor Club, a true labour of love, which took up so much of their time and efforts for so long, given so selflessly by both.

The Hackney Gazette would like to add its own acknowledgement and appreciation for all that you have done for so many young men from the borough and far beyond too for that matter.