Government must help us to produce the next Nicola Adams, says Haringey Boxing Club founder
The founder of the Haringey club which produced Olympic champion Nicola Adams says it is time the government stepped up and showed its support for amateur boxing.
Gerry Willmott MBE launched Haringey Police ABC in 2000, coaching the likes of Michael Grant, Ashley Sexton, Erick Ochieng, Ryan Taylor and Chris Evangelou, who have all turned professional.
The club have also been trailblazers in the world of women’s boxing, helping to develop the talents of Leeds-born Adams, who moved to the capital in 2009 to join the Tottenham High Road gym.
Adams has gone on to make history, becoming the first female boxer ever to win an Olympic gold medal and establishing herself as one of the faces of London 2012.
With Finchley’s Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell also winning gold, Great Britain’s boxers are now celebrating their most successful Olympics since 1908.
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Willmott is hoping that these triumphs in the ring will indeed ‘inspire a generation’ – the slogan of the London 2012.
But he says the government must now back the clubs who are unearthing the young talents, and put their promises about a sporting legacy into action.
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“We’re hoping Nicola’s success will raise our profile and get people in the borough into local gyms – ideally ours!” said Willmott.
“I think she’s sent a powerful message to young girls everywhere – that anything’s achievable.
“The idea was to inspire a generation and hopefully the success of people like Nicola and Anthony Joshua will boost the participation and interest in amateur boxing as a whole – with both men and women.
“The government are talking about a legacy but it’s all very well saying it, we want to see them put it into action now. They need to start putting some money up and supporting us.
“It costs �80,000 to �90,000 a year to keep this club going and the community funding disappeared a few years ago so we have to rely on private sponsors.”
Willmott is particularly keen to underline the value of the annual Haringey Box Cup, which is hosted by Haringey Police and held at Alexandra Palace.
More than 300 fighters took to the ring over three days in the latest edition in June, with competitors flocking from all over Europe to take part in the UK’s largest open boxing tournament.
“We’ve been holding the Box Cup for five years now and three of this year’s Olympic champions have benefited from it,” said Willmott. “Nicola won it in 2009, Anthony Joshua won it in 2010 and Katie Taylor (Ireland) won it in 2011.
“We need people to support it now – the government and the council. It costs �55,000 every year and it shouldn’t be up to us to stump up the money, surely!
“We’re trying to set up a meeting with Boris [Johnson]. They keep banging on about legacy and in the mayor’s budget �50,000 is nothing, it’s peanuts.”
Adams has already pledged to help the Haringey club, where she is still a registered boxer.
“We’ve got a dinner show in October and she’s going to come down and be a star guest,” said Willmott. “We already had Ricky Hatton but Nicola said she wanted to support us too and help to raise money. We depend on that kind of thing to keep it going.
“Nicola came down to join us three years ago. Female boxing wasn’t very big in this country then. It was always quite strong abroad, especially in Scandinavia, but not over here.
“Nicola was obviously quite good but she never got the opportunities to find good opponents – other clubs weren’t too bothered about women’s boxing.
“We were front-runners in terms of supporting female boxing. She came to speak to us and said she was willing to move down to London if she could fight for us to progress her career.
“We put her into the Box Cup and took her to Sweden to gain experience, and because of all of that she got picked up by the ABAE (Amateur Boxing Association of England).
“Nicola’s said that when all the furore has died down she’s going to come in and see us, and talk about what she wants to do next.
“We’ve also got Leah Flintham [the former ABA champion] and Tamisin Malia, who has just retired. She’s doing a coaching course now and will be looking after our female boxers.”
Anyone interested in boxing can visit Haringey Police’s website at haringeyboxingclub.com or contact Gerry Willmott on 07764583291.