The hallowed hall is situated on Old Ford Road, in Bethnal Green, London E2; proper fighting terrain and within hooking distance of where so many of this nation’s premier pugs were born and raised.
So what if parking is a nightmare and too many local traffic wardens would profit from a bash on the beak. The finest small hall fight venue in Europe requires nominal roadwork from Bethnal Green tube station on the TFL’s Central Line and the crowds usually ensure a safe passage from robbers and rippers on fight night.
The neo-Gothic structure was first opened as a Turkish baths by the Duke of York in 1929 and is now a Grade II listed building.
They say you never know how much you love something until you lose it. In 2004, the spiritual home of British boxing was threatened with closure when Tower Hamlets Council – where a third of those under 16 were deemed obese – claimed they could no longer justify the £600,000 annual upkeep.
Following local outrage, a 15 year deal was struck with Greenwich Leisure which brought a multi-million pound face-lift and secured the venue’s future.
The hall has a long history for hosting London and national schoolboy and boys clubs championships. Packed houses amass each February to witness the annual North-East Divs and the London ABA semis and finals are also held there.
In the late 80s, Rod Douglas and Nigel Benn split a pair of fabled slugfests and, in April 1999, one Jim Twite from Coventry ironed out future heavyweight king David Haye on the York Hall canvas!
International tournaments have also featured. In November 2007, current IBF Super-middle boss James DeGale outpointed another future world champion Shawn Porter in an England v USA meet. This year it serves as home court to the British Lionhearts WSB franchise.
So when some ‘Awight’ geezer at a nearby boozer starts spinning a yarn about when he fought at the York Hall don’t assume it’s bullshine.
The Greats Who’ve Trodden the Boards
In addition to Benn, Haye and DeGale, Lennox Lewis starched Liverpool’s Noel Quarless in two at the venue in 1990. Five years later Joe Calzaghe iced US import Frank Minton in 85 seconds.
A young Ricky Hatton retained assorted InterContinental titles there in 2005 while Carl Froch’s first four pro gigs all took place inside a York Hall ring. He later returned to defend both Commonwealth and British titles at the East End citadel.
Legends from overseas have also shuffled on the Hall’s canvas. In 1985, world champions Edwin Rosario and Frankie Randall fought a fabulous ten rounder while Tim Witherspoon and Johnny Tapia have also made cameo appearances.
The facilities politely are barely One Star. The men paid to entertain get weighed-in and changed on a first floor balcony and thereafter brave good will slaps (home corner) and spittle or worse (visiting guest!) as they trudge through their wage payers to reach the battle zone.
Those at ringside are so close they get to hear the groans and thuds as leather lands, plus smell the blood, and savour the spit and snot as it drops on your lap!
The iconic fight theatre was recently voted one of the six best places in the world to watch live boxing.
At capacity, the theatre boasts 1200 seats and there ain’t a bad view from any of them. A 280 seat balcony - frequented by chanting flag and banner bearers - hangs over the ring, providing the feel of an amphitheatre.
Beneath the acerbic bite and banter, you’ll find a hardcore of some of the most astute and knowledgeable fight fans on the planet; who’ll appreciate the fights from first bell to final.
Routinely, they’ll share floor space with an eclectic mix of Eagle flying Albanians, drum thumping Africans, Irish travellers, Turks, Poles and West Indians all rooting raucously for their hero from the ‘hood’ .
Don’t forget to pack your selfie-stick.
In addition to fighters of all generations and grades, expect to find the ringside cordon rammed with an amalgamation of ‘celebrities’ from the A list to the E list.
Footballers, models, soap stars and gangsters, authentic and plastic, are prevalent. Fan or fud, York Hall is definitely an ace place to be spotted at.
The Berth of BoxNation!
A boxing legend was born there on 30th September 2011 when BoxNation aired for the first time.
In sweltering conditions, gladiators Liam Walsh and Paul Appleby took turns bouncing each other off the canvas before the former retained his Commonwealth super-feather crown by tenth round stoppage in the British Fight of the Year.
Fifty two months on, both venue and channel reign undisputed as industry leaders. Long may it continue!