An open letter to Nigel Huddleston, Oliver Dowdon and the British Government.
Discipline, respect, politeness and direction. These were all fundamental qualities that I was lacking as a youth. I was disobedient, defiant, troublesome and unruly. I was a tearaway, a troublemaker and a fighter; but nearly two decades later, I am now disciplined, respectful and polite. I knock before opening a door; I say please and thank you; I let other people have my seat if they need it; I help others; I treat people fairly and without judgment; I admit when I am wrong and take responsibility for my actions.
So, what changed? I joined a boxing club.
Boxing did not only change me, it forged me, moulded me; it laid the very foundations of my core characteristics - therefore, I want to share with you my personal experience on how boxing changed my life, and why I believe financial support should be provided to grassroots and community boxing clubs that will not only benefit the individual, but also society as a whole.
It was 2001 and I was 13 years old. After stumbling across the Rocky movies, I was inspired to lace up my first glove. I asked around and discovered that a family friend was a keen amateur boxer and he agreed to take me to my first session at Hook and Jab Amateur Boxing Club. After completing my first training session, I was hooked (no pun intended). A few short months passed and I was soon attending three sessions per week. I started to make the journey alone. I would finish school, have a nap (typical teenager) awake at 16:30, catch the bus into town and take a 10-minute walk to the club. This provided me with independence and personal responsibility. After my initial year, I quickly learned that there is no place in the gym for ego, arrogance or bad behaviour. You respect the coaches, you respect others and you respect the sport. If you have a bad attitude, you will soon be taught a humbling and painful lesson. Over the next several years - as I continued to box - discipline, self-control and a respect for others became instilled into me - this is no coincidence. You don’t have to look very far to find that many other boxers share these common characteristics. Boxing has the power to directly alter a person’s destiny. It can provide an alternative path - a brighter, more positive path - a path that equips people with the key-skills needed to become a respectable member of society; a path with exponential growth as these characteristics are passed down through multiple generations.
Boxing was also affordable - subs only cost £2.00 and a return on the bus cost £1.00, but the current generation may not be so lucky. After facing months of covid restrictions, and with no financial help planned for the foreseeable future, I fear that many clubs will have no option but to increase the price of admission (or even worse, close their doors forever). This will directly impact the most impoverished children in our society, as fees become unaffordable. Children from the lowest income households will be priced out of the market which may have detrimental effects on their physical and mental well-being as they advance into adulthood. A recent study found that regular exercise in childhood and adolescence increases the odds of staying physically active and healthy during adulthood. More unhealthy children today; more unhealthy adults tomorrow; more strain on the National Health Service in the future. Club closures may also lead to an increase in antisocial behaviour. Tearaway teens who found direction and discipline within the boxing gym, will now seek other activities to keep themselves occupied - namely, hanging around parks, drinking, smoking and getting up to all kinds of mischief.
Funding will not only ensure that entry prices are kept to a minimum, it will also go a long way in providing good, clean equipment for many clubs that are severely lacking in this department. Most gyms will do what they can; with what they have. Over the years, I have used everything from broken skipping ropes and rusty weights, to heavy bags that were held together with duct tape. I have fought in second hand boxing boots and used sweaty gloves from “skid-row”. In a post-covid world, it is likely that equipment will only deteriorate further and become less of a priority as gyms try to stay financially afloat.
Over the past decade, British boxing has seen a revitalization; the sport has never been so popular. Great Britain has produced countless Olympic and professional world champions (many of whom came from grassroot clubs). It would be a travesty to hinder all the positive progress that has been made thus far - therefore I would like to ask you to reconsider the decision to exclude boxing from the 300 million, sports rescue package and provide some much needed financial support to community boxing clubs.