Gary Cogan - Uni Box
Gary was born in Birmingham in the year 1972. He was brought up in Small Heath and joined the local boxing club at the age of 7. After 4 years of training Gary had his first fight at the Irish Centre, Digbeth in 1983 which Gary jokingly recalls he lost. Between the ages of 11 and 24 Gary boxed a staggering 120 times in total.
He became involved with boxing through watching his brother Saun, along with his Father Mick who co-ran a club with Pat Benson, Billy Meddings and Johnny Kelly.
Gary, keeping in line with similar comments made to us, told FFOH that he has seen a significant change take place in the character of the sport since his childhood. ‘There is a lot more support from the government’, he remarked and an elevated sense of fame and recognition which comes with success. Huge financial investment into the sport since the 1970s has led to bigger fanbases and bigger rewards. As media corporations, promoters and businessmen fight between themselves for contracts, audiences and rights to fights, in turn, fighters themselves have profited. It seems now the fruits of their labour can, if proven good enough inside the ring, be astronomical outside of it. The old adage that boxing is the working man’s way out of the ghetto and a rainbow road from rags to riches is not all Hollywood fantasy. Golden Boy, Money Mayweather, Frank warren, Eddie Hearn, Tyson – The sport is now populated with big names and big money.
Gary’s amateur career ran from the ages of 7 to 17, starting at Small Heath boxing club and then moving to train with Frank O’ Sullivan, his heart however always remaining in Small Heath. Gary fought around 35-45 for Frank and around 72 for Small Heath.
When asked what he would like to see happen in the future for Birmingham’s fight scene he said, ‘A venue like York Hall, that would be amazing’. A localised, well known, dedicated boxing arena is something that Gary, along with probably all of Birmingham’s boxing fans, would like to have. Venues, venues, venues is what Gary and boxing fans in Birmingham find ourselves repeating again and again. Fights at the NEC can prove to be a soulless and sanitized experience, commuters experiencing little if nothing of Birmingham itself. As with all large arenas, the MEN, Millennium, Wembley enormous open spaces do not suit boxing rings. Something similar to an airport the NEC manages to generate an overwhelming sense of empty space and soullessness upon arrival, alienating fans from a fight which unless ringside is near impossible to see.
Vacant spaces and binoculars aside, Gary’s first loss as a young boy only encouraged him to seek out his first win. The Grand Hotel in Birmingham City Centre was where Gary encountered ‘the best feeling in the world’, driving him on to victory after victory. He eventually become the national ABC title holder at age 17, his greatest achievement in the sport, coinciding with his brother Sean’s Irish National title win!
Gary finds himself now as the owner of UniBox, a company which manufactures boxing rings. Established by Gary’s Father 39 years ago UniBox began producing boxing rings from Monk Street, Small Heath Boxing Club and since Gary’s takeover in 1996 has expanded and grown. Taking the company from 6 to 65 rings, UniBox is currently the largest manufacturer of boxing rings in Europe, if not the world. Recently acquiring facilities in Manchester, today UniBox ships rings internationally to both Europe and America. However Gary was quick to point out that if it had not been for Small Heath Boxing Club, the place where his heart still really lies, ‘non of this would have ever happened’