BOXING trainer Henry Wharton has said that it was a difficult decision to close his gym, but stressed that the health and safety of his fighters was of far greater importance.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen almost all public gatherings be prevented, with Henry’s Gym in Acomb just one of many sporting clubs to have been affected.

Wharton, a former three-time world title challenger during his boxing career, had several fighters scheduled to box within the next couple of months.

2-0 super welterweight and George Davey and debutant heavyweight Mitchell Barton were both due to feature on the undercard to WBA and IBF super lightweight world champion Josh Taylor’s fight against Apinun Khongsong at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on May 2.

The show, which was to be broadcasted on BT Sport, was pulled by Davey and Barton's promoter Frank Warren.

Also, the upcoming contests of several amateur fighters trained by Wharton were cancelled too.

And while disappointed that his fighters will have their returns to the ring delayed, Wharton was fully understanding of the decision.

“This situation has affected everybody really and it’s something that needs to be taken seriously,” he said.

“We’ve taken the decision to close our doors, so the gym is closed, because we don’t want to put the people coming in into any danger.

“Up until the decision was made, we kept sanitising our hands and we’d followed all of the guidance and taken all of the appropriate measures.

“It was a difficult decision to make.

"We had amateur boxers lined up in our gym ready to box in championships and box cups too.

“So we were stuck between a rock and a hard place because we were thinking ‘We’ve still got to prepare them for their fights and they’ve still got to make weight’.

“But the decision was taken out of our hands with the concerns that we had from what has been happening around the world.

“Because of all of that, boxing has to come second.

“The health and safety of all of our boxers and everybody that comes to our gym has to come first.

“Everything surrounding the boxers is coming second to their safety at this moment in time.

“We know that we’ve got to be very, very cautious about what the boxers can and can’t do because of the coronavirus.

"They’ve got to keep clean and vigilant and so on.”

On cancellation of the fights for his professionals Davey and Barton, Wharton added: “It’s a real shame for those lads.

"But we will live to fight another day and that’s what is most important.

“Listen, those lads are a little bit gutted, but it is what it is.

"We’ve just got to stand strong at this time.

“We’re hearing some really bad things about this virus, so those events just have to come second to it.

“We’ll keep ticking along and we’ll get back in the gym as soon as we can.

"But like I said, for now, keeping safe is the most important thing.”

The decision to close the doors of the gym has indefinitely put Wharton’s income on hold, with boxing classes, training fees and amateur shows all off for the foreseeable future.

Is it a worrying time?

“It is,” he replied.

“But it’s just like anything else at this moment in time.

"All of our health is more important than anything else.

“This period of time being away from the gym is giving me time to get things done at home!” laughed Wharton.

“There is always something to do, something that previously I’ve been able to push to one side.

“Boxing takes up a lot of my time, so having this time off is giving me a bit of time off to be able to catch up on things at home.”

One crucial sponsor of the gym, who Wharton was keen to praise, are Empire Tape.

The company are one of the leading hand tape providers for both boxing and mixed martial arts around the country and have been a long-time backer of Wharton's gym.

“I really want to thank Dean Sherriff and Mark Stanley from Empire Tape for their support of ourselves,” said the trainer.

“They’ve stood by us from the start, they’ve never left our side and they’ve believed in us.

“They stood with us when we had very little stance in the boxing scene.

“Now that things are coming along with the professional lads, people are saying ‘Where have these come from?’

“But, those lads believed in us from the start.

"I wholeheartedly want to thank them, because I don’t think that it would have been possible to do what we have done without them and their support.”

The entirely volunteer-run Henry's Gym have set up a JustGiving page in which people can support the club during their current period of instability.

To donate to the gym, visit: