Andre Olley puts legends on canvas
15:00 12 January 2017
Boxing trainer paints in spare time
Although his own professional career lasted less than two rounds, former heavyweight Andre Olley has put some all-time great champions on the canvas.
The canvas in question – his painting of Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali – hangs on the wall in the offices at East London’s famous Peacock gym where the former Barking puncher has worked as a trainer for many years.
Olley is clearly a talented artist, a hobby he enjoys in his spare time away from the Canning Town gym where the 61-year-old is the head coach at the amateur club and works with pro fighters.
His own ring ambitions were cut short by an unfortunate injury when he turned pro after building a reputation as a big-punching heavyweight prospect at Barking BC.
Olley scored a two-round debut win when halting rival Don Charles inside five minutes at the World Sporting club in July 1980 and shortly after was enjoying a holiday break with his family.
“I was in a country pub and was directed to the toilet through a door on the right, but I went through the wrong door and crashed down 15 feet into a cellar,” he said.
The fall left Olley with severe spinal injuries and he was unable to pass the Boxing Board of Control medical to regain his licence, although he did appear in some unlicensed contests.
Olley, from Blake Avenue in Barking, later switched to training fighters and played a key role in the development of the Peacock amateur club as head coach and shares his thoughts in our latest Q&A session.
LW: What are your early boxing memories?
AO: My father Ray was a boxer, but never forced me into the sport. In fact I was a keen swimmer and I enjoyed the competition before I tried boxing.
I went to the Barking club and my career took off from there.
LW: Who is your favourite all-time fighter?
AO: It has to be Muhammad Ali – he really was the greatest.
LW: What is your favourite all-time fight?
AO: It has to be Marvin Hagler v Tommy Hearns in 1985, three rounds of thrilling ferocity that will go down in boxing history.
LW: What was your best boxing memory?
AO: Taking our boxer Emily Energie to the ABA Elite 51kg title in 2014, little more than a year after she came to the Peacock gym.
LW: What is your biggest disappointment?
AO: It has to be the injury that ended my career after just one pro fight. I had a growing reputation and had talks with manager Terry Lawless to join the most successful boxing stable in the country at the Royal Oak gym in Canning Town, but my accident ended it all.
LW: What big fight would you like to see in 2017?
AO: My number one would be Amir Khan against Kell Brook in a welterweight showdown that we’ve been waiting to see for years. It’s looking likely that it will be made in the months ahead. I hope so as it should me a memorable contest between two great fighters.
LW: Who are the trainers you admire?
AO: I work closely with Martin Bowers who founded the Peacock gym with his brother Tony and has a long family connection with the sport.
Martin trains the pros at the gym and did a great job building the career of Ovill McKenzie, a one-time journeyman who he developed into a top-class fighter who should have won a world title before he was forced to retire.
Super-welterweight Ahmet Patterson is unbeaten with title success and more to come, Martin and I have worked together for years and we are always learning.
LW: What is your favourite activity away from boxing?
AO: I enjoy life with my family and alongside my painting I like to perform conjuring tricks to entertain people.
n Local boxers are booked for their first action of 2017 when West Ham and Fight for Peace combine with a Saturday afternoon show on January 21.
The event takes place at the Fight for Peace gym at Woodman Street, North Woolwich, E16 2LS and the action starts at 1pm.