The Way Festival


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Many people regard Jimmy Tibbs as one of this country’s best trainers, someone who put the “Great” back into British Boxing. The household names he has trained include Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn, Barry McGuigan, Chris Pyatt and Stevie Collins. But, as his new autobiography reveals, Jimmy Tibbs himself, was no slouch when it came to fighting and was a boxer. He had nineteen professional fights, sparred with Mohammad Ali, appeared on the same fight card and won his fight in front of 56000 people.

Boxing is a tough sport but Jimmy Tibbs was born in Canning Town when it was a very tough place. He weighed in on the 9th September 1946 at 7lbs & 7ozs. He grew up in Fox Street, Canning Town and worked most of his life close to the sights and sounds of Rathbone Street Market. He started boxing at the age of 11, trained hard and turned professional at the age of 19 for what Jimmy describes ” a large sum of money”. He was considered second only to Billy Walker in Britain and was seen as the next “white hope” for a world title.

Then, as Jimmy explains in his book,”things got out of hand”. He got involved in an East End war during which his brother had his throat cut and Jimmy and his young son were nearly killed when a bomb was placed under his car. Although, he escaped with his life he could not escape the long arm of the law and he ended up with a ten year prison sentence. Result, boxing career over.

Jimmy Tibbs did his time, returned to civilian life, was successful in business and when the opportunity arose became a boxing trainer. But, even at the height of his fame, when he had a gym full of title chasing boxers, he was preoccupied with feelings of hatred and a desire for revenge. As Jimmy Tibbs explains,”troubled times had scarred him mentally and physically. In a very personal chapter he explains how he found a way out from all this by being “born again”.

Jimmy Tibbs book, ” Sparring with Life” allows us ordinary civilians to catch a glimpse of the old East End. To find out what it takes to get into a ring and trade punches and how the feelings fighters have for friends and family can lead them into a world of extreme violence. We can also stand in the corner of the ring with Jimmy Tibbs as he tells us about the great fighters he has trained, how they fought and the tactics they used.