A knockout punch for youths in Kentish Town
On its 110th anniversary, a boxing club in Kentish Town is still going strong. Alex Berry hears about the latest initiative to entice youngsters off the streets to learn discipline in the ring. FOR those who say kids these days have no respect and then lo
On its 110th anniversary, a boxing club in Kentish Town is still going strong. Alex Berry hears about the latest initiative to entice youngsters off the streets to learn discipline in the ring.
FOR those who say kids these days have no respect and then lock themselves in their homes for fear of being stabbed out on the streets, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Situated on Talacre Road in Kentish Town, St Pancras Amateur Boxing Club celebrates it's 110th anniversary this year and remains determined to continue its success in both the noble art and in setting troubled young men on the path to personal success.
Among such eminent fighters as Martin (Too Much) Power and English heavyweight champion John McDermott, the club also boasts none other than boxing enthusiast and star of Blackadder, Jeeves and Wooster and House, Hugh Laurie.
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Both Laurie and his two sons are members and the actor - a light-heavyweight - is much admired by the trainers for his skill, speed, strength and professionalism.
One trainer, who did not want to be named, said: "He is a great supporter of the club. Unfortunately, he is mostly in America, but when he's here he always comes in. He is very strong but has to be careful not to get hit in the face. His TV contract doesn't allow that."
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Roy Callaghan, a personal trainer who with other unpaid volunteers trains the boys, said: "We have a great membership but we rely completely on donations and sponsors. And because our lease with Camden Council is up for renewal soon, we cannot get a lottery grant.
"We would love local businesses to come forward and help sponsor the boys. We have a number of great prospects here who could go on to win medals at the Olympics, but we always need sponsorship."
The Olympics figure strongly in the club's history. In 1908 Harold Holmes represented club and country at the London Games. More recently, the British boxing squad had club boxers Michael Hughes (Los Angeles 1984) and Adrian Dodson (Barcelona 1992) fighting it out for their country.
But as well as champions, the club also brings in the troubled teens of the area.
Kevin Lawrence and John Lane are volunteers who work at Chalcot School for kids with EBD (educational and behavioural difficulties).
John, a music and drama teacher who also runs a comedy club, said: "We treat them like adults and they talk to us. Normally they'd just get mad and cause trouble.
"Here we show them another way."
St Pancras also has the support of the local police, with PC Tina Joyce working tirelessly to promote the benefits of the club.
Wendy Eager, of the police's Safer Schools Partnership, is also heavily involved. She said: "I work at the 115 referral unit and the boys always have plenty of energy to release. I think this is a good idea."
But not all the success stories are boxing stories, as volunteer Mourad Boudjemaa explained: "We also encourage the kids to improve their grades. We know they won't all be champions but it's not just about that. They get confidence and encouragement here. For instance, we have a young man who was with us for years. He is now studying medicine at UCL. And another recently qualified as an electrician.