When Mikey Worswick became the youngest-ever winner of a national kickboxing title last month, it was another filip for Accrington’s flourishing martial arts scene.
And those honours are continuing to come thick and fast to an area that is producing a raft of top-quality fighters to rival anywhere in the country.
Worswick, who is just 18, beat Wolverhampton’s Dale Dixon in Blackburn to claim the ISKA British middleweight kickboxing title.
He was, according to the rules, too young to battle for the crown, so had to get special permission from the ISKA, kickboxing’s governing body, to take part in the fight.
That he got that permission is a sign of the high regard in which Accrington’s martial arts scene is held. Whether it’s kickboxing, cage fighting – popularised by the increased TV exposure of UFC in this country – or any other type of martial art, the chances are there is a local fighter doing very well in it.
Jason Curtis, the former British kickboxing champion who runs the Kokoro gym on Dale Street, said: "Mikey’s been training with me for the last four years. He’s been fighting adults since he was 15, and he’s put a lot of hard work in, which was why he was allowed to start competing professionally when he was 17 – when normally he would have had to wait until he was 18.
"We’re looking to keep his progress going now. We want him to defend his British title early next year, then look at moving on towards Commonwealth, European and world titles after that. I’m expecting him to do that all within the next two years."
Worswick has undoubtedly benefited from Curtis’ kickboxing experience – and one factor which crops up repeatedly when trying to analyse the reasons for Accrington’s success is the number of top-quality coaches in the area.
Billy Battrick, who runs the Fight To Fit gym on Back Wellington Street, is a former national karate and kickboxing champion who has produced a clutch of young title winners.
Battrick said: "There must be around 20 champions in various disciplines from Accrington alone "And it really helps if you’ve got a coach who has been there and done it. They know when a fighter has to train and when a fighter has to rest."
Battrick also flags up the importance of a proper all-round training programme.
At his gym, he will concentrate on the fighting and tactical parts of coaching, while the fitness side is looked after by his wife Tracy, a Royal Society of Arts-qualified fitness coach.
Battrick said: "If you were to ask Jason, he would tell you that it works in a similar way at his gym, where his wife Alison looks after the fitness side of things. Having the fitness coaching is very important. As a fighter, you need that side of your game to be in top shape if you’re to succeed.
"It’s not enough just to be tactically right."
The quality of coaching is certainly a factor in Accrington’s martial arts success, as is the dedication and spirit of the local fighters.
But some coaches will suggest there is another explanation for the number of fighters coming through the ranks.
Kickboxing champion and cage fighter Ian Longson, who co-runs the East Lancashire Predators mixed martial arts club on Gillies Street, quips: "Accrington is as rough as hell."
Wrestling coach Jimmy Hey, who runs the club with him, agrees. "There are some lads at our club who you might call unruly," Hey said.
"But they come to our club and they enjoy what they do. We don’t ask them for respect – they give us the respect for what we are and the way we run the club."
It is certainly working. East Lancashire Predators have just added to the local fighting scene’s success story by winning the UK Mixed Martial Arts League.
The club has also produced a young cage fighting success story in Ian Entwistle. The 23-year-old has just taken part in his first couple of professional fights and has ambitions to move into UFC.
Entwistle said:¿"Coming to this club has changed my life. Eighteen months ago, I would never have dreamed of getting into something like this." Entwistle had ambitions of becoming a professional footballer at Rochdale, but injury ended his ambitions at 17.
He then had a spell running a nightclub, deciding to turn his attention to fighting after he was beaten up in an attack.
"Jimmy took me on and started coaching me, and I’ve never looked back," Entwistle added.
There is a definite sense that the fighting scene does help to give local youngsters a focus. Kokoro gym owner Curtis said: "That’s absolutely true. We get some kids down who have been misbehaving, or got themselves into a bit of trouble. We give them some sessions here, and they really benefit from it."
With so many youngsters coming through, there are plenty of opportunities to showcase the best of them.
One such show, featuring no fewer than 16 bouts, will take place at the New Era complex in Accrington on November 27 from 7pm. Tickets are £15, available – along with further information – from the Fit to Fight or Predator gyms.
Curtis added: "Accrington is a bit of a stronghold for kickboxing and martial arts.
"In fact, we seem to have more gyms in Accrington than pound shops now!"