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Going back to the future

Posted: 2pm 20 May 2021

Former Australian amateur heavyweight champion Mal Challinor admits there was a “tear in his eye” when Savannah Calledge first walked into Redcliffe City Boxing Club gym.

Savannah, 11, is the great granddaughter of the club’s legendary trainer Barry Parnell, who trained 72 state champions, 29 Australian champions (including Challinor) and five Oceania champions.

“When she first came in I nearly cried,” said Challinor, the Australian amateur heavyweight title holder from 1973-75 and 1977-78, “it was great.”

Savannah Callegde at the Redcliffe City Boxing Club gym.

Barry's influence

The legacy of Barry Parnell, who died in 2008, is everywhere, from pictures and gym rules to the basics of boxing and the motto on vests: “Modest in victory, courage in defeat”.

And now his great granddaughter is trying the sport.

It was another landmark for the growing club which, under Challinor, Allan ‘Bunger’ Johnson and Mark Dixon is thriving in a white steel shed on Old Bay Rd, just past Burpengary Tavern.

Josh McCullough, the club's first state title holder under its affiliation to Boxing Queensland.

First state title

Josh McCullough, 15, last month became the club’s first state amateur champion, under its affiliation to Boxing Queensland, when he won the featherweight novice title at 57kgs.

“He will go a long way,” said Challinor, “this bloke will win a national amateur title some time. He wants to turn pro, that’s his goal.

“We’ve turned a big circle. Barry put Redcliffe boxing on the map. He trained me for 15 years, we’ve gone away, come back to start teaching and won our first state title. Barry had 72!

“I call around to (Barry’s wife) Marian’s every couple of weeks for a cuppa and a talk. It’s great. I love it."

The words of legendary trainer Barry Parnell on club vests.

Big message

The lessons learned under Barry Parnell are still form the basis for emerging fighters at Redcliffe City Boxing Club.

“We’ll take anyone at the gym," said Challinor, "we’ll show anyone how to hold their hands up.

“Our biggest thing is footwork and hands. Hands aren’t down here they are up here. That’s the big message coming from Barry back to these boys.

“Here, each person that comes in, shakes your hand, that shows respect.

"Then, what we teach .... you don’t take outside. That’s the way I was taught. I’ll tell ‘em straight, don’t ever go looking for it or you’ll have me to deal with.”

Picture Gallery

Josh McCulloch doing 'pad work' with Bunger Johnson at Redcliffe City Boxing Club.

Training trio

Working with Challinor is former bantamweight boxer Alan “Bunger” Johnson, Parnell’s first state champion at Townsville and kickboxer-turned-boxing trainer Mark Dixon.

“Bunger does the pads, Mark holds the pads,” said Challinor, “Mark’s taking over down the track. I’m 68, Bunger’s in his 60s.

“Mark was a kick boxer. To come back to boxing is a totally different concept, but he’s picked it up 110 per cent and he’s good with it.

Trainers and boxers: Front row, from left Mark Dixon, Marian Parnell, Mal Challinor and Bunger Johnson at the club's gym.

'Great time'

“There’s a lot of pressure taking this on. You have to get boys to a certain position but I love it, it’s putting a bit back (into the sport).

“I’ve had a great time. I did most of my fighting for the PCYC Redcliffe, through Barry. Then had a trip around Australia and had a few fights.

“It was the worst thing. I had no trainer and was trying to train myself. When I came back I had one fight with Barry, won on a knockout and thought that’s a good way to retire.”

Mal Challinor reflecting on the club's former glories through newspaper cuttings.

Years of experience

Challinor, Johnson and Dixon – who have more than 100 years of boxing experience between them - volunteer three nights a week at the Redcliffe City Boxing Club.

Anyone wishing to join the club can just turn up. First night is free, then $5 a session to cover the cost of electricity and $20 a year for insurance.

Contact the club through it's Facebook page at facebook.com/RedcliffeCityBoxingClub

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