Norrie Sweeney

TELLY star Hughie Green found fame by presenting hit shows such as Opportunity Knocks . . . but what is less well known is that he also inadvertently put Paisley boxing on the map.
Back in the 1950s and 60s, before Opportunity Knocks came along, Hughie fronted another game show called Double Your Money.
And it was on one particular episode of that highly-popular TV show back in 1962 when a young upstart named Norrie Sweeney, from Paisley, floored charismatic Hughie with his boxing knowledge.
In fact, Norrie’s knowledge of boxing was so comprehensive that he answered 32 successive questions correctly – and won the maximum prize of £1,000.

Not bad, given that Norrie’s weekly take-home pay in 1962 was just £13.
So, when opportunity knocked, Norrie delivered a knockout blow!
And he used his winnings from the show to establish his first boxing club in Paisley, which still flourishes in Love Street today.
Norrie, 76, recalled: “At the time I appeared on Double Your Money, I was working in the car factory in Linwood and my wages were about £13 a week.
“I started out as an amateur boxer in the 1950s and, because I had a lot of boxing knowledge, my friends told me to go on Double Your Money.
“Basically, I won £1,000 just by answering boxing questions. The last question they asked me came in five parts and, if I had got any part wrong, I’d have lost the lost but, thankfully, I got it right.”
With the £1,000 prize in his hands, former flyweight scrapper Norrie bought a second-hand boxing ring, which is still being used by members of Paisley Boxing Club to this very day.
It came from the late, great Scots boxer Peter Keenan, who was British Empire and European bantamweight champion.
With a ring in place, Norrie scoured Paisley until he found an appropriate base to set up his club.
Norrie, who ended his amateur boxing career with a points victory over the Scottish ATC champion Peter Donnelly, said: “I started a club in Blackstoun Road, in Ferguslie Park, and ran shows there.
“It ran for a few years and then moved up to an old church at the West School but it had so many leaks that we had to keep buckets to collect all the rainwater.
“From there, we went to Storie Street and used an old boilerhouse.”
Norrie also ran the club from a base in Underwood Road before the YMCA building in New Street became available.
However, he was on the move again when the YMCA base closed down and, these days, the club operates from small premises across from the Love Street Medical Centre.
Also based there is the Paisley Kick Boxing Club.
Over the years, Norrie has turned many a raw, young prospect into a professional boxer.
Punching postman Kevin McIntyre, who went on to win the British welterweight crown, and Kris Carslaw, who is expected to fight for the British light-middleweight belt next year, were both trained by Norrie earlier in their careers.
These days, a steady flow of youngsters go along three times a week to receive expert tutelage from Norrie.
Each of them pays their dues – the princely sum of £1 a night for juniors and £2 for seniors – but what they get in return from Norrie is priceless.
“It’s a vocation, it’s in my blood,” said Norrie. “People ask me when I’m going to chuck it but I was watching an interview with the famous singer Tony Bennett and, when he was asked when he was going to retire, he said: ‘I’m going to give it another 10 to 15 years.
“Tony is already 82, so I’m just a young man by comparison!
“We have a lot of good boys at the club, including Darren Tarr, who is a good prospect, and Edward Cook, who has had four bouts and four wins. He’s a cracking prospect.
“The boy Dougie Ferguson is another. He fought Ricky Burns, who went on to become the WBO World Super-Featherweight champion.
“Dougie fought Ricky three times at amateur level – and beat him twice!”
Not content to rest on his laurels, Norrie is now gearing up to launch an additional career as a boxing promoter.
He recently applied for his promoter’s licence and it has now been granted.
Delighted Norrie said: “I tried for the licence years ago but got outvoted. At that time, the people who ran boxing simply outvoted you if they didn’t want you in.
“I applied for the licence again but then got distracted when I was diagnosed with prostrate cancer.”
Thankfully, Norrie’s cancer is in remission and he plans to use his new boxing licence to showcase his upcoming stars.
He said with glee: “I will be able to promote my own boxers now. We have Stephen Russell, who is a brilliant amateur, and Ronnie Clark, who used to be a world kickboxing champion. There’s also Sean Dick and Craig Kelly, who are great boxers.
“Some of the lads want to go professional and, hopefully, I’ll be able to help them do that and promote them too.
“I might well be the oldest boxing promoter in Britain.”
Another challenge facing Norrie is to find a new home for his boxing club.
The current premises in Love Street are bursting at the seams and there have been one or two issues about a leaky roof and the general condition of the place.
As a result, his main priority is finding alternative accommodation and the best possible venue to rear the Carslaws and McIntyres of the future.
With that in mind, Norrie would love to hear from any businesses or organisations that might be able to help him relocate the club.
He explained: “I have had some people come along to the club who have looked at the place and said: ‘I’m not coming back here.’
“We are looking for a new place that we can afford and can share with the kickboxers. That’s my top priority.”
Norrie’s co-trainer, Tony Lindie, believes the work the energetic OAP has done for the sport of boxing over the years deserves major recognition.
Tony said: “I’m learning off Norrie all the time. In fact, I’ve been learning off him since I was 10 years old … and I’m now 43.
“Norrie definitely deserves some sort of recognition because he’s been running a boxing club in Paisley for nearly 50 years and his knowledge of the game is second to none.”
l Paisley Boxing Club runs on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, while kickboxing is available on Wednesdays and Fridays.
A women-only boxing class is expected to start running weekly on Tuesday nights, from 8pm to 9pm.
Anyone who can help Norrie to relocate his boxing club should call Paul Behan at the Paisley Daily Express sports desk on 0141 847 8634.
For more information about Paisley Boxing Club, including the women-only classes, call Tony Lindie on 0755 719 9825.