Rocky inspires outdoor gym after Sparta club closed

The boxers take to the hills like Rocky as he trained to fight Ivan Drago. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

The boxers take to the hills like Rocky as he trained to fight Ivan Drago. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

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ROCKY Balboa would be proud of them – even if they’d be happier in a warm and fully equipped gym.

Members of the historic boxing club where Ken Buchanan honed his skills have been forced to take to the hills after their building was slated for demolition to make way for a supermarket.

Young boxers Jamie Petty and Lewis Henderson get in some sparring practice. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Young boxers Jamie Petty and Lewis Henderson get in some sparring practice. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Echoing Rocky IV – in which Sylvester Stallone’s iconic hero scales a mountain, chops down trees and pulls an overloaded snow sleigh before his fight with nemesis Ivan Drago – the Sparta AAC boxers regularly run up Arthur’s Seat to keep fit and hone their skills.

Leaders at Sparta – which was formed around 70 years ago – said those training currently were determined to maintain a diverse exercise regime featuring activities such as core fitness drills, running with weights and pad work.

But they are desperate to find a permanent base after losing their clubhouse at Fishwives Causeway, Portobello.

Aldi is set to build a new supermarket on the site at Baileyfield Industrial Estate, along with 200 new homes.

The boxers also admitted that being at the mercy of Scotland’s weather means they often have to cancel sessions.

President George Forsyth said: “Training outside is OK when it’s nice, sunny weather but when it’s wet, it’s a nightmare. If it’s wet, we cannot go out. Often, there will be a phone call at the last minute. We’re all becoming experts at telling the weather.”

Mr Forsyth warned that the lack of a permanent base threatened the group’s status as a registered Scottish boxing club.

“We cannot do any sparring because we don’t have rings there,” he said. “It’s all core fitness, running with weights or running up the hill. And then we do lots of pad work. But we have to make do without punch bags.

“Part of the requirement of being registered is that you have your own gym, with insurance, health and safety packages in place, and adequate changing facilities, both male and female. We don’t have anywhere to go. I’ve 
spoken to councillors and MPs, but they all give false promises.”

Political figures in the Capital said they had made efforts to locate alternative premises.

And they stressed that finding an affordable venue which would not involve Sparta sharing with another club had been a particular challenge.

Councillor Mike Bridgman, SNP member for Portobello and Craigmillar, said: “George has done great work in the period that he’s been with the club – his heart and soul have been in it for a long time.

“I’ve been trying to help them – I have looked at 
various properties and I have asked the property manager at the council to look at various properties, but it’s finding something that the club can actually afford.”