EXCLUSIVE PICS: Razorlight play secret charity gig at boxing club
Indie band packed a punch from inside the ring to raise cash for Harrow Road community gym
Having trained the likes of Joe Calzaghe, Frank Bruno, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield over the years, the All Stars Boxing Gym on Harrow Road is used to its fair share of champions.
But last night it welcomed a different form of superstar when indie rock band Razorlight stepped into the ring to play a special gig in front of 250 people to raise money for the club.
Taking a break from a jam-packed schedule this summer including appearances at V Festival, Guilfest and other festivals around Europe, the Harrow Road gig was kept quiet ahead of the intimate affair.
Lead singer Johnny Borrell trains regularly at the gym and says he is keen to keep it alive as it struggles for survival with minimal funding.
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“I love the All Stars,” he said. “This place literally saves lives.
“It would be an enormous loss to the community if it closed.”
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Based in north Westminster since it was founded by former Ghanaian boxing champion Isola Akay in 1974, the gym holds classes for up to 40 youngsters every day which are subsidised by adult classes.
But with a lack of external funding and the building lease up for renewal, the gym, which is a registered charity, is battling to stay alive.
Mr Akay’s son Raman explained the gym’s origins: “My eldest brother used to box for another club when he was a kid and he wanted his friends to join him. But the club didn’t want too many black boys there so he left and told them our dad would teach them.
“One day he turned up with five friends and our dad started training them in the hallway of his block. That turned into 10 people, then 15, then 20 and they soon realised they needed a proper home.”
From humble beginnings, the club has grown to house some of the country’s finest young talent as well as providing a safe place for youths at risk of crime and gang life. It also welcomes everyone regardless of race, colour or background.
Gym volunteer Dean Murphy said: “We would rather kids were in the gym boxing than on the streets causing trouble.
“It’s about getting them out of using knives and into using boxing gloves.
“Our gym is packed out every day so you dread to think about what all the kids would do if we ceased to exist.”
For more information visit www.allstars-gym.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see more pictures pick up next week’s Wood&Vale out on Thursday.