Blind faith

Blind faith

Deaf-blind James Peline, who gave up boxing as a teenager when he began to lose his vision, is stepping back into the ring – at the age of 65

By Alexander Lerche

James, 65, lives with Usher Syndrome, a condition which resulted in the loss of his sight and hearing.

But since his return to the sport just six months ago he has astounded his trainer – and also hooked the attention of Alex Morrison, Scotland’s top boxing manager.

Alex, who manages world WBO (World Boxing Organisation) lightweight champion Ricky Burns, was so taken by the pensioner’s dedication he invited James to be guest of honour at his next fight night in Wishaw.

Despite the sport relying entirely on hand eye co-ordination, James clinched the opportunity through Deafblind Scotland to work with Kirkintilloch trainer Tam Fraser.


blind faithWith help from the charity’s guide/communicator, the Glasgow belter can communicate with others and take part in activities otherwise impossible for him.

Tam and James use their own ‘boxing sign’ methods to communicate, which has Tam using tactile touch on James’ arms and shoulders to give training orders.

Speaking via hands-on signing, through a Deafblind Scotland guide/communicator, James, from Cardonald, Glasgow, said: “I love it. It is very hard work and I sweat a lot when I train, but I enjoy it.”

The weekly sessions cover fitness drills as well as developing James’ technique and hand speed.

Tam, who has forged a close friendship with James through the training, said: “When we know someone has a disability and they used to box, I don’t see how that should hinder them now.

“To cope with life with absolutely no sight or hearing, but to still come and do this makes him a real inspiration to us all.”

James and his guide/communicator will visit Rivals Gym in Wishaw, where Kirkintilloch fighter Ally Black will fight former Syrian champion Yossef Al Hamidi.


Alex Morrison, who is organising the event, said: “I’ve never met anyone like James, it is amazing. I realised as soon as I met him it’s not sympathy he is looking for.

“I am not completely surprised he has been able to take up the training if he did it in the past, but it must be hard.

“I am so lucky to have my sight and hearing and it’s a pleasure to do something like this for James. It is really nice to see Deafblind Scotland offering James these opportunities.”

Suzanne Abbate, operations manager for Deafblind Scotland, said: “James is a shining example of a deafblind person who will not let his impairments stop him from achieving his goals.

“Deafblind Scotland’s skilled guide/communicator service is equipped to offer those who have a severe loss of both their sight and hearing the opportunity to get out, interact with others and carry out daily tasks. I’d like to thank Alex Morrison, Tam Fraser and Alistair Black for their hard work and dedication to James.”