A big reason why the sport is so good for kids is that it gets them off the streets. It’s common knowledge that there aren’t many fighters that come from a privileged background.
When I was born, I lived in a two-bed council flat with my 21-year-old mam and my three-year-old sister while my dad was doing a bit of time in jail.
I never found boxing until I was 10 when my dad forced me to go to keep me off the streets and out of trouble.
When I went to the gym, I made friends and they later became like brothers to me. We all came from similar backgrounds and, even though we would beat each other up in the ring, you would form a bond with these boys. It’s something that never leaves you even with the lads I have fought, being in the ring trying to knock someone out while they’re trying to KO you, it’s crazy how you end up with a special bond and lifetime respect for them too.
Boxing gyms are a community. They give kids a purpose and teach them respect, provide them with a goal, a second home and give them another family. It also helped with discipline, If we messed around in the gym, we would get kicked out, sent home. It was a horrible feeling because you wanted to be there. So it taught us well.
It really creates confidence in youngsters and I now feel like I have brothers from around the country. I mean, even if I haven’t seen them for years, I know they are there for me if I ever need them.
The people who run these gyms are the most amazing people because they do it for free, changing so many people’s lives for the love of it.
They accept anyone. I remember some kids couldn’t afford the 50p per week subs, but they’d understand and let them train anyway.
This happens around the world and without these men and women boxing wouldn’t be around. Grassroots is the backbone of the sport.
I don’t know where I would be in my life if it wasn’t for these men from Sunderland ABC: Bobby Bute, Jimmy Richardson, Phil Jeffries (my dad), David Binns, Steve Patterson, Gavin McGinn, Joe Purvis, Steve Allan, Cliffy Quinnet, John Storey, Gream Fairly, Tony Austin, Jon Slater, Neil Conlon and many, many more.
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