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True legend of local boxing dies aged 61

Frank Harrington in his beloved Red Rose Community Centre watching boxing earlier this year

A true legend of boxing in our local area who was a mentor for countless up-and-coming young fighters has passed away at the age of 61.

Frank Harrington was the owner and head trainer of the Coastal Amateur Boxing Club in Morecambe, and himself a former professional fighter.

Frank was the mentor of many young local boxers and a passionate advocate of the sport.

Coastal Amateur Boxing Club paid tribute to Frank with a post on its Facebook page on Wednesday.

"Frank has positively impacted countless young people's lives through the gym and is known and loved, far and wide within the boxing community and wider.

"We are all deeply deeply saddened and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time.

"We won't be running any boxing sessions for the immediate future out of respect to Frank.

"We understand there are many young boxers who will want to pay respects or may want to talk to someone about this, therefore, coaches will be in the gym tonight for this reason.

"Rest in peace Frank, it's hard to put into words how much you'll be missed, just know we are all absolutely devastated."

Frank championed his fighters with great pride, and for more than a decade ran boxing shows in the local area to give them the opportunity to showcase their skills.

And at the age of 50, he returned to the ring himself to battle British boxing icon Nigel Benn on a famous fight night in Lancaster.

Frank was born in Glasgow and became hooked on boxing as a child, walking into his first gym at the age of 10.

He was an excellent amateur boxer, first of all as a member of clubs in Burnley and Donegal, Ireland, before settling in Lancaster at the age of 18, becoming a member of the Lancaster Lads boxing club.

After 130 amateur bouts, he turned professional in 1986 at the age of 24.

Known as a heavy-handed puncher, Frank had 21 professional fights, boxing at venues all over the UK and at The Carleton club in Morecambe.

Here is Frank in action during his boxing career.

In his later life, Frank turned to training and promoting, as a coach and guiding light for many young local boxers.

He founded the Coastal Amateur Boxing Club and Red Rose Community Centre in Morecambe, giving youngsters the opportunity to train, get physically fit and learn boxing.

The community centre on West End Road also hosts fitness and martial arts classes, and aims to give young, deprived and disadvantaged people a place to come together, stay off the streets and get physically fit, with the opportunity of gaining employment.

He also promoted many local amateur boxing shows and 'white-collar' fight nights at venues all over the area.

In 2012, he himself returned to the ring, aged 50, to box a three-round exhibition with the legendary former world champion 'The Dark Destroyer' Nigel Benn at Lancaster and Morecambe College.

This clipping from The Visitor newspaper shows Frank in action against the hard-hitting Benn.

The following year, Frank boxed again, this time in an exhibition against the former world super middleweight champion from Ireland, 'The Celtic Warrior' Steve Collins, held at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster.

As a promoter he also brought boxing back to Morecambe Winter Gardens after many decades' absence.

Over the past decade, the Coastal gym continued to go from strength to strength, as Frank's stable of young boxers won titles and gained a reputation for their skills across the UK's amateur circuit.

Frank was immensely proud of his fighters and was always quick to champion their achievements, constantly in touch with the local media to ensure they received publicity for their victories at shows all over the country.

He would also always praise his team of trainers, never wanting to take credit for himself. 

Here is Frank celebrating with Coastal trainer Dave Higham as Coastal Boxing's Josh Sharp became the club's first England Schoolboys Champion in 2022.

The Coastal club has also been used and visited by many of Morecambe and Lancaster's best-known boxers, including world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, and other professionals including Isaac Lowe and Reece MacMillan.

Frank also loved talking about boxing to his friends in the fight community, sharing his knowledgeable views on boxers and upcoming bouts, and few were better at predicting the outcome of big fights.

In recent years, he continued to organise boxing shows, supporting local businesses, and bringing amateur clubs together from all over the North West to compete in front of crowds at the Red Rose Community Centre. 

At one of his final events in October, he held a reunion of former boxers and friends from the Lancaster Lads Club where he trained when he first moved to the area.

Frank died on December 6 and will be much missed by his family, friends and all his colleagues in the boxing community.

*Thank you to Larry Braysher's book 'Boxers from the Bay' for some of the information used in this article.

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