Rugby union player Ryan Burrows, who has played in the Premiership and European Champions Cup, and former British champion boxer Josh Wale were in the same class at Wath Comprehensive from 1999 to 2004. Josh’s son Mikey and Ryan’s daughter Georgia are now class-mates at Wath C of E Primary School.
Wale, who is from Brampton, said: “Sometimes, when you’re from somewhere like we are from, and you tell people you want to be a professional sportsman as a kid, some teachers or other people might tell you it’s not going to happen. But me and Ryan have both proved it’s possible with hard work and desire. At Wath Comp now, they have his Newcastle Falcons shirt and my England vest on the wall. We played rugby and football together and we were in the same class at school. “Our older brothers were also in the same year. It’s crackers that our kids are in the same class now. Ryan was brilliant at rugby at school and, like me, he knew what he wanted to achieve and he had tunnel vision. “He was always a nice lad and it’s great to see the man he’s become.”
Burrows, who now lives in Manvers, added: “We were good friends at school. We speak about our careers quite a lot. I would say we have a similar mindset in that we are both very humble in what we have achieved. We don’t make a song and dance about it. You see Josh on the school run and he just tucks himself away in the corner, keeps his head down and picks his son up. I do the same with my daughter. But, when we do chat, we realise how lucky we are to do something we love for a living. There are a lot of people who wanted to be professional sportspeople who didn’t make it.”
Burrows is impressed by how Wale has overcome difficulties such as his father and trainer Mick’s health problems. He said: “Josh has dedicated his entire life to it. Him and his dad are a massive credit to each other, especially with what his dad has been through with his illness. To still be competing at the top level is fantastic. A lot of his fights have been on weekends so I haven’t been able to get to them but I have watched the last few on TV.”
Burrows currently plays for Coventry RUFC, who were fourth in the Championship – the second tier – when the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus. He said: “We were starting to play some decent rugby and we thought we had our best results in front of us. But you can only control what you can control and it was the right decision to cancel the season. Physically, for any rugby player, this is the best thing that could happen, because we take a battering every game and normally your body doesn’t actually recover in those four or five weeks between the seasons.
“We have a full-time strength and conditioning coach so we are getting programmes sent out to us, but it is quite limited because we don’t have access to much. I have been going out for exercise and doing some gymwork at home. It could be easy to get stuck in a rut and have a little bit of depression when you don’t see anything but your own four walls for most of the day. But I am lucky to have a wife and two kids who keep me quite busy, as well as my training schedule. I am doing jobs that I have been putting off like painting and gardening.”
Josh, who has won his last four fights, was due to go into the ring again on June 19 but is expecting that to be cancelled. He said: “I can’t see it happening. The main priority is people’s health and sport comes second. I am 32 and in the form of my life so I didn’t want to stop. If I had won again in June I could have got a world title eliminator or even a world title fight, ideally in Barnsley. If it was going to happen, it was going to happen now. But I have a couple of years left in boxing and I think I have some massive achievements left.”