Historic Melbourne Icon Faces Extinction

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Leo Berry's Boxing GymFor over 50 years, Melbourne’s iconic Leo Berry’s Richmond Boxing Club has been a valuable training site for underprivileged youth, competitive boxers and casual enthusiasts.

Leo Berry commenced training operations at the gym in 1954 after a 38 fight professional career.

Originally located behind the Richmond Baths, it moved to its current site off Gleadell Street in Richmond about 30 years ago.

Sadly, the legendary boxing trainer passed away at the age of 88 in July 2015. Today, his legacy lives on as Bob Foster – a passionate boxing trainer – and his son Brett run the gym.

Foster – who has been training since the age of 17 – trains a diverse range of locals from businessmen coming in after a long days work, to young teenagers coming in after school.

Foster is content with the simple pleasures of training today’s youth, despite Australia’s waning interest in the sweet science. “That’s all I want to do is train kids, and I’m a happy man. If I’m coming here every day, I’m a very happy guy. My biggest thing is I just love training people. So the more kids I get in here, the better. But those days are passed by. You don’t get a lot of kids anymore in these suburbs. Years have gone by, the gym would be packed with young kids. Boxing’s passed it by. And now it’s all…most want to go and play football, cricket, soccer, and they go down and swim or whatever they want to do. You don’t get a lot of kids that much anymore.”

Despite the recent decline of boxing’s popularity in Australia, the gym still has a niche following to this day. “That can be anywhere from 8 to 20, but it varies. Some nights, it might be four. Friday nights are pretty slack, but most nights, you might get 18 guys come in.” Said Foster.

When asked about his musings as a trainer, Bob Foster unhesitatingly named two major influences. “Johnny Famechon, in my opinion best Australian boxer ever. Muhammad Ali, best boxer ever. And who knows? They’re the two. They were both fabulous boxers, boxer fighters, not just fighters. I like the idea of hitting and not getting hit, and they did that.”

Foster doesn’t follow many of today’s fighters, except for one recently retired boxing legend: “I watch [Floyd] Mayweather, but unlike everyone else, I want him to win. Most people want him to lose”

After almost 60 years in operation, the gym is now in danger of being torn down as a local school has been proposed to be built at the current site.

“This used to be a school. This is the last building they kept up. The police station in front, that was a school as well, part of a school. And apparently it’s going to be a school again, they keep telling us. I don’t know when that’s going to happen and I hope it doesn’t, [as] They’ll pull us down. We’ll be gone.” Said Foster.

The ultimate fate of the long-standing gym is unknown at this point – even to Foster himself. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re up in the air. We just don’t know. State government said they’re going to put a school here, so we take them at their word. I suppose they will eventually. Maybe they will, governments change, and maybe they won’t. Who knows?”