Within the carcass of a Victorian bathhouse, a proud and familial boxing lineage has been preserved. The Repton Boxing Club is a museum. The fighters of the past stare down upon the promising talent of today.

A recent editorial, produced by the sportswear brand Torsa and with creative direction from In-Col Studio, celebrates one of Britain’s most iconic boxing institutions, contemplating the determined spirit required to attain greatness, not just within the sport, but in life.

The ‘House of Champions’ and ‘Strongest Boxing Club in the UK and Europe’, the Repton Boxing Club (RBC) has trained over 500 champion boxers since its conception in 1884. A branch of the prestigious Repton Boys, the esteemed public school in Derbyshire, the Repton Boys Club was formed to provide ‘support and encouragement to the young men in one of the country’s poorest communities’.

The existence of the boxing club today, in close proximity to the heart of East London, is surprising. For decades, the gentrification of the area surrounding Brick Lane has been well documented. To walk along Cheshire Street is to observe a significant change in the local community and its altered needs. A vegan ‘fauxmagerie’ sits alongside one of a number of brunch spots. The local barbershop offers expensive haircuts performed by a heavily tattooed and thick-bearded man, whilst walls of street art house design agencies, the studios of personal trainers and vintage clothing retailers.

Cheshire Street gives way to Dunbridge Street, a change marked by the remarkable facade of the bathouse-cum-boxing club. The RBC’s appearance is historic among the blocks of council flats erected during the 1950s and 60s. It lives opposite an events venue, north of the train tracks that take commuters to Clapton, Walthamstow and beyond.

The existence of the boxing club today, in close proximity to the heart of East London, is surprising. For decades, the gentrification of the area surrounding Brick Lane has been well documented. To walk along Cheshire Street is to observe a significant change in the local community and its altered needs. A vegan ‘fauxmagerie’ sits alongside one of a number of brunch spots. The local barbershop offers expensive haircuts performed by a heavily tattooed and thick-bearded man, whilst walls of street art house design agencies, the studios of personal trainers and vintage clothing retailers.

Cheshire Street gives way to Dunbridge Street, a change marked by the remarkable facade of the bathouse-cum-boxing club. The RBC’s appearance is historic among the blocks of council flats erected during the 1950s and 60s. It lives opposite an events venue, north of the train tracks that take commuters to Clapton, Walthamstow and beyond.

The entrance to the gym, through a set of heavy wooden doors, is preceded by a cracked and uneven pavement. Inside, tiles extend from ground to ceiling, changing hue at chest height from brick red to off-white. Grime clings onto these lighter tiles, unwashed for decades; the lacquer of hard work. The ring in the main hall is imposing. Its green canvas bathes in natural light that pours through glass portions of a ceiling that looks suspect for an asbestos survey. Draped from the building’s iron rafters are flags, the club badge, as well as ‘Repton Legend’, Tony Burns, are remembered, but a Ukrainian flag sits most prominently over the centre of the squared circle. From there, the eye is drawn to the canvas's many stains, a splash of blood and a torso-size, sweaty discolouration. 

Despite being a cold and decrepit space, a warmth emanates. 

A birthplace of champions, from schoolboy level to Olympic Gold; Micky Carter, Billy Taylor, Dave Odwell and Audley Harrison have trained under the white strip lights that illuminate the gym’s green and yellow walls. Much of the wall space is obscured, hidden by a gallery of portraits and memorabilia. Boxers pose with their names boldly printed below, whilst another wall features the recognisable names of East London’s most famous criminal minds, the Kray Twins. The pair were talented fighters who trained in the gym, before becoming investors who used their influence to generate publicity for Repton.

Ingrained into the minds of the junior boxers, ‘No Guts, No Glory’, is a manifesto for how to train, as much as it is to live one’s life. Scribed in gold paint on the gym’s front door, it is a foundational belief held by the sportswear brand Torsa, too, for whom ‘training helps to rationalise and overcome the rigours of life’.

Their latest series, ‘The Pursuit’, saw the brand collaborate with fashion stylist, journalist and consultant, Benedict Browne, to document the importance of training to the life of a creative at the top of his game. Speaking to Torsa, Browne explained, “Training gives me mental clarity, realignment”, and, “I train because I have to. It's a deeply ingrained, non-negotiable habit of mine. I can't start the working day without doing something”.

Browne channels the spirit of the dedicated boxer, whether in the ring or not, withdrawing the fundamentals of discipline and hard work and applying them to his thriving professional practice. The final words of his narration, borrowed from the ‘Repton Prayer’, attest, “It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit”.

Contributions

'The Pursuit', a short film by Torsa, is available to watch on their website.

Directed by Charlie Coleman.
Modelled by Benedict Browne.
Art Direction by In-Col Studio.
Photography by Kennedy+McFarlane.

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Design & build by In-Col Studio

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