BRITISH super lightweight title contender Joe Hughes has paid tribute to the man he described as his ‘guiding light’, Tony Stannard, who has died after a long battle with cancer.

Stannard ran the Malmesbury Amateur Boxing Club where Hughes first learnt the rudiments of the sport.

Stannard earned an MBE for his services to boxing and the community. Literally hundreds of kids would have been through his hands in almost 30 years in charge of the gym adjacent to Malmesbury Vics FC.

“I’ve known Tony since I was eight years old and he was a massive influence on my life,” said Hughes. “He coached me from the age of eight until I turned pro.

“We won everything in my amateur days including a senior ABA title.

“I saw him at his hospice near Swindon just two weeks ago and he clearly didn’t have long but it was still devastating to hear that he had passed away.”

Hughes revealed how his dad ‘tricked’ the youngster to start going to the local boxing club.

“My dad originally took me to the gym as a form of physiotherapy,” he said.

“I was born with Erb’s Palsy a condition which left me with a weakened right arm and my dad ‘tricked’ me into starting boxing as he thought it would a fun way to have some physiotherapy. I’m so thankful he took me there.

“Tony was old school and keen for everyone to make something of their life – not just from boxing.

“He was not just a coach but a guiding light to me and countless others. “It was all about manners and morals with him, how to behave at school and at home and make yourself a better person.

“There was no trash talking. You shook the coach’s hand when you came into the gym, and your shirt had to be tucked in. Tony liked things done properly.

“If you did not pull your weight you would soon know about it.”

Stannard was already a well-known figure in the London boxing community when he moved to Malmesbury.

“He ran Malmesbury ABC completely out of his own pocket and he must have helped thousands never mind hundreds of kids in his time,” said Hughes.

“I guess I was his star pupil – I wish I could have won a British title to show him before he died – but he would have had scores of Western Counties champions, and all from a little club in Malmesbury.

“At least he got to meet my son Alby before dying. Funnily enough Alby was the name of Tony’s boxing coach as a youngster – a nice coincidence.”