Ray Askew

Setting the tone and the ethos of a gym is often the most difficult part to get right for any boxing Trainer.  Making sure the work ethic is as you expect and that egos are left at the door can be a challenge.  However for Ray Askew, having the right role model for his Invicta Gym comes naturally.

"My grandfather was British cruiserweight champion, back around 1914" Askew tells me.  "They came from a completely different attitude, would fight anyone.  He had about 200 fights, was fighting every other week in 25 rounders!  He boxed for the middleweight title, he even knocked out the reigning heavyweight champion in a non-title fight.  What boxers would ever fight a non-title fight these days??  I like to think we have that no nonsense attitude into our gym too."

Currently moving between locations as they look to relocate, Ray and his other Trainer Sam are working to bring further success to their Isle of Sheppey based boxers.  Currently handling two professionals, Dave Jones and Luke Gibb, the focus is on quality over quantity as he explains.  

"One of the things is we don’t just take lads on as professionals without looking at them first.  We take them in the gym for a few months to take a look at what they are.  I’m 57 now, I’m too old to have lads that are wasting my time.  I want lads with the right attitude to train, be committed to what they do and self-motivated.  Me and Sam, who works alongside me, we motivate people all the time, but they still need to be able to do it themselves.  If I’m telling them to get up in the morning and go for a run, I expect them to go for a run without me needing to follow them on a bike.  I know whether they do that and when they don’t.  I’m lucky enough with both Dave and Luke that they’re self-motivated enough to do that.  They have their eyes set on certain goals and they don’t need too much pushing from me, which means I can work on the technical aspects with them."

So has he ever had problems with lads that don't fit his way of thinking?  "When people do come to the gym they tend to just slot in" says Askew.  "They see we’re not about the hype.  It’s not to say we would turn someone away though, certainly if they’re decent people.  But for me boxing isn’t about the bravado and the violence.  It’s like in cricket; someone hits the ball as hard as they can.  In boxing, you hit someone as hard as you can and that’s how I relate what we’re about and our ethos."

​With the two fighters under his guidance, he is hopeful of bringing boxing titles to Kent.  For his heavyweight, Dave Jones, he believes that despite what could be perceived as a setback in drawing recently with Dorian Darch, titles aren't far away.

"He’s 9 fights undefeated, he’s just come off a draw with Dorian Darch.  Darch is very, very good and has only ever lost to the top boys, he’s a great test and I really like him.  He’s got this sort of bravado about him, I love his attitude to the sport.  He’s very honest and I’d like to think that’s what we’re about as well.  Dave is looking now at Area titles.  Most people at the show thought Dave beat Darch, I thought he beat him and I’m honest enough to say if I didn’t think that.  Had it been over eight rounds I think Dave would have stopped him.  But we can move past that now and go looking at the Southern Area title.  Again thought it’s timing; I would like Daniel Dubois to relinquish the title before we fight for it.  Dubois is a bit dangerous at present but it’s not even about the danger.  Financially, I don’t think it would be in Dave’s interest to take that fight now.  That fight could happen down the road, but a bigger pay day for Dave."
For Luke, his career is still in its infancy, but at 3-0 he is showing signs of promise in the super-lightweight division.   "We are planning on fast-tracking Luke.  Let’s be reasonable and realistic though, we are hoping in his next three of four fights he will be fighting for a Challenge belt and then after that I believe he’ll be one or two fights from a Southern Area title, he really is a talent.  As long as we do it right, the timing is correct and the stars are aligned then I think we can make that happen."

Timing is something that Ray is focussed on when it comes to his boy's careers.  Making sure that the right fight is taken at the right time and that the boxer will benefit from the experience is key.

"Me and Sam, along with Joe Elfidh, we go through the opponents and work out who we think is right for our lads at that time.  There’s people we have turned down, the fight may be too difficult at that stage.  It’s not to say we avoid anyone, but we are careful about the timing.  This is one of the things people don’t appreciate professional boxing at times; it’s not just about matching a fighter with an opponent.  If you’re looking after someone’s career then you have to look at the timing.  Look at Peter Fury, the way he handles Tyson and Hughie is second to none.  It’s not just about talent, which they have bundles of, but it’s also about timing.  I’ve watched how they’ve carefully selected people, made the right fights to help them learn.  That’s what we’re all trying to do."

There is one type of fighter though that Askew, despite having plenty of respect for, isn't keen to take into the gym.  "I have been approached by people that want to become journeymen, go on the road.  As much as I admire them, and I really do, that’s not what we are about.  We want people that go to fight solely with the intention of winning.  If we had someone that wasn’t a ticket seller but was going to go on the road and try to win every fight, we’d take them on no problem, but we don’t want those that are in the sport to turn up and take the cheque then go home.  They have my upmost respect, but they’re not a bit of us."

It seems a wise attitude to have; keep the winning mentality in the gym, ensuring the focus is on picking up the victory.  Askew wants that focus to be in a positive way though and is wary of the bravado that creeps into the sport, something that can be exaserbated in an era of social media.  It is something that he is wary of with his own boxers and the way they handle their own careers out of the ring.

"With the internet and social media, they’re excellent tools that can be easily abused sometimes.  In professional boxing you need an outlet to help sell tickets, which is the lifeblood of the sport, particularly for lads in our position who don’t have the backing of a Warren or a Hearn.  Of course I want them to go out there and promote themselves, but I’d much prefer them to be more Henry Cooper than a big mouth abusive type that you see around today."
With a thriving gym, underpinned as well by members of the public who Ray describes as "a great bunch of people who create a great atmosphere", Askew is focussed on giving his boxers the stable environment where they can thrive and learn under the Invicta banner.  Once the roots are settled, he is looking to make 2018 a big year for Kent boxing.