By Scott O’Connor.
Gerard Lavelle England Internationalist
St Peters amateur boxing club was first affiliated in the early 1900s and was originally known as Woolwich ABC.
As a club st Peter’s can proudly lay claim as one of the oldest boxing clubs in London.
Looking back one young prospects at the time of the club’s conception was a young boxer named Joe Dempster who had 25 fights between 1910- 1930 with a degree of success .
After retiring as a boxer Joe took the role as head coach at Woolwich ABC, Joe then spent many years coaching young prospects, one of which was his son Pat Dempster who had a very successful amateur career and went on to become an Irish International boxer .
Years later Following his father’s retirement as head coach Pat would walk in his father’s shoe’s once again this time becoming head coach.
Unfortunately During the 1970s Woolwich underwent a period of regeneration and the Woolwich Catholic Social Club was demolished leaving the club homeless with the club needing a new home and luckily they found it when they moved to St Peters junior school on Cresent road Woolwich at which point the club was renamed St Peters ABC.
St Peters has had a successful reign over the years and had produces some excellent amateur talent all of which came from the Woolwich area. These include Lesley Stewart who went on to win the WBA light heavyweight title, Julius Francis who won the British – European – Commonwealth and Lonsdale belts. Another name that is hugely highlighted in the St Peters history is Gerrard Lavelle. Gerrard started his boxing career with St Peters and following huge success went on to become an England International boxer. Gerrard then went on to join the armed forces where he continued his success in his boxing career. After leaving the armed forces he returned to St Peters as a coach and helped to develop many young prospects.
Lesley Stewart WBA light heavyweight champion
Steve Higgins was another of the great prospects to came out of St Peters, Steve met Pat Dempster following some time spent in juvenile prison. Pat set some ground rules for Steve and that was when his boxing career started , He became an excellent amateur and decided to become a licensed professional. Unfortunately, a bad accident left Steve with partial vision in one eye, but undeterred he returned to St Peters and began coaching as he had a strong desire to help others.
Unfortunately Steve retired from his coaching role at the club in 2015, which paved the way for the upcoming coaches being developed at the club.
In 2008 St Peters funding was cut which lead to the club having to relocate again to survive. The new home of St Peters was found and is the same location as today which is St Thomas Church in Charlton. The club continues to thrive and offer opportunities for young people to grow and develop there boxing skills. The club now boasts an impressive membership base from 7-60 years old from all different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities and abilities with a everyone is welcome policy whether they want to competitively box or just get fit.
In 2017 St Peters was awarded a grant to enable the club to buy all new equipment and help the club to grow and prosper in future.
St Peter’s like the vast majority of great boxers in history has witnessed it’s highs and lows and has at times been on the ropes and on the edge of defeat but somehow the fighters spirit always shines through.