AN award-winning boxing coach believes the Lancashire Telegraph’s Grass Roots Heroes are a real knockout.

Nik Tucker, head trainer at Sandygate Boxing Club – the oldest in East Lancashire – has recently been named Burnley’s coach of the year.

It is an accolade for which he is very honoured to have received and now he is backing everyone nominated the the Grass Roots Heroes awards, sponsored by United Utilities.

“I think these awards are a knockout idea,” said the 38-year-old. “I have already made a couple of nominations and I wish everyone well.

“I think it is great that there are so many categories because it covers every aspect of local amateur sport.

“Personally, I like the junior awards because it gives a nod to sport’s future stars.”

Tucker knows all to well about giving the stars of the future a confidence boost.

The Level Three (Senior) ABA boxing coach has been a regular face at the Burnley club for more than a decade – the last five as coach.

Last year he coached his 14-year-old son Sam to the ABA English Schoolboys title – winning North West of North of England titles along the way – while fellow Sandygate fighter, Jerome Lawton also won a NW title.

This season, Lawton, James Kimberley, 12, and 15-year-old Sarah Bennington – the club’s first girl boxer – all won NW area titles with Kimberley also making it to the ABA Minor finals.

Thanks to Tucker’s hard work, Sandygate has more junior boxers than ever before.

But it is not just at the club where Tucker teaches the noble art for the full time boxing coach has also brought boxing in to secondary schools across East Lancashire with his Brockton Boxers Schools Programme – a company he set up five years ago.

However, despite winning his deserving award, Tucker admits he could not have done it without the team around him.

“It’s nice to win the coach of the year award although, like every coach, it’s the team we work with that deserve all the recognition,” added Tucker.

“With me, I’d be lost without the help and guidance of Shaun Dwyer who, with his experience in the boxing game, I could not be without.”

Sandygate ABC was formed more than 40 years ago and has enjoyed plenty of area, regional and national success – with many of its fighters joining the professional ranks.

Fighters such as Warren Stowe – who once fought a young Joe Calzaghe – Blue Butterworth, Chris O’Brien and current unbeaten professional, Shayne Singleton, all learnt their trade at Sandygate.

“These are just many fighters who have gone on to bigger and better things,” added Tucker. “And they all came from the club under the guidance of club stalwart and former coach Bob Rosbotham.

“And I am sure each and everyone of them would say Bob was a big influence.”