THE PEDRO CLUB is an integral part of the community in Hackney, London, largely thanks to the tireless work of former British super-middleweight champion James Cook.
The 58-year-old was awarded an MBE in 2007 for the outstanding work he has done for the youth in the area, providing an outlet and structure to help tackle gang crime.
However, the club has fallen on hard times and is in desperate need of funding. Cook, who is not paid for the work he does at the club, hopes the boxing community will help keep the facility going.
“We’ve been struggling but we’re coming to a time now where the club needs to provide more, like disability access,” he told Boxing News.
“It’s an old building, we have over 50 classes [a week], some people can’t get down the stairs to the toilet, sometimes the roof leaks. Sometimes I have to fix the roof myself, but I’m not a roofer [laughs]. It’s a community project and I just want to carry it on for the young people so it stays there for the next 30 years or so.”
Outside of amateur boxing classes, the club also offers women’s box-fit classes, a youth club with leisure facilities, a computer room and music room and over 50s nights. The club is in urgent need of refurbishment though, and the team – including Derek Williams and Marvin Stone, who are also volunteers – hope to introduce new offerings such as parenting education, business acumen classes and motivational speeches.
This weekend (May 27) the club stages an amateur boxing show to raise funds. Doors open at 12.30pm with the boxing set to begin at 2pm at the club itself (175 Rushmore Road, Clapton, London E5 0HD – call 020 8985 3800 for further details). Alongside the boxing there will be raffles, music and celebrity guests.
The club was first opened in 1929 by Baroness Harwood but has not had any work done on it since the 1960s when Dame Elizabeth Taylor, former vice-president of the club, raised money alongside her then husband Richard Burton.
Having seen money spent on new residential developments in the area, Cook is keen to highlight the importance of the Pedro Club.
“They’re building all these new houses in the area but they don’t understand the problem. I tell them, no matter what you do, if you don’t have anything in the area for young people, you’re gonna have problems,” he said.
“The days of Girl Guides and Boy Scouts are gone, so you have more young people on the streets. The Youth Club now has got four football teams. We’re looking for a lot of money, we’re looking for money for refurbishment, which I don’t think is impossible. If you go round the area and ask about the Pedro Club, people will tell you it’s the one place where we don’t have problems with the young people. At one point, the police weren’t even allowed in here, now we play football with them.”