A community-based boxing initiative that aims to support at-risk youths in Brighton and beyond has received fresh support from Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.
WBC Cares, which offers disadvantaged youngsters an opportunity to turn their lives around through a 12-week boxing programme, launched in Brighton last year following a successful pilot in Croydon.
Now plans are being put in place to expand the project to further locations, including in Hangleton, Worthing and Crawley.
Mrs Bourne, who visited WBC Cares at Brighton & Hove Boxing Academy on Wednesday (February 13), said: “For me, this is massively important scheme.
“You’re looking at kids who have no routine in their lives.
“In many cases they have been excluded from school, and are at risk of being adopted by street gangs who will give them that routine and sense of family they’re missing at home.
“Here they are learning confidence, discipline and respect. We are giving them life lessons that they are unable to get elsewhere, and that for me is why I’m so supportive of this programme.”
Presenting WBC Cares with a cheque for £5,000 from Sussex’s Community Safety Fund, Mrs Bourne said she considered the grant to be money well spent.
“This will help alter the lives of these young men, and I pretty much guarantee that all of them will consider coming here to be one of the most beneficial things they’ve probably ever done.”
The WBC Cares boxing programme was originally set up just over a year ago, in response to Britain’s burgeoning knife crime epidemic.
Scott Welch, former ABA Heavyweight Champion and UK chairman of WBC Cares, said the scheme, which he helped set up, taught kids the fundamentals of life.
He said: “We’re talking to them, we’re educating them, and we’re making them understand that there’s a lot more to life than being out on the street.”
A convicted young offender during his formative years, Mr Welch first walked in to the Brighton & Hove Boxing Academy 34 years ago and has coached there since 1999.
“I believe Mike Tyson said it best to me when I discussed [WBC Cares] with him,” said Mr Welch.
“He told me that I wasn’t just teaching kids to be champions of boxing, I was teaching them to be champions of life.”
Now Welch and WBC Cares director Paul Davis are looking to expand the programme to more locations across London and Sussex.
“Generally speaking we try and go where we know there’s a problem,” said Mr Davis.
“One of the reasons we chose Crawley is because when we were speaking with Brighton police, they commented on how bad to situation was in Crawley.”
Mr Davis also said that they hoped to set up new projects in both Worthing and Hangleton in the coming year.
Working with the St Giles Trust, which offers support and facilities to help people facing severe disadvantages, WBC Cares recruits many of its members through Pupil Referral Units.
One boy, 15, who has been going to the classes in Brighton for five weeks now, said that joining the boxing programme had kept him occupied and out of trouble.
“Once you get to know the people here, they’re all very supportive, and they’ve given me more confidence, taught me how to fight and kept me safer.”
Another boy, 13, who had been excluded from school on numerous occasions, said that the programme had changed his life since he started coming several weeks ago.
“When I first started [at WBC Cares], I used to get into about three fights a week at school, and now I don’t get into any.
“I know I could end up going down the wrong path if I didn’t come here, using drugs, dealing drugs, or committing robberies, but this gives me more strength, more self-confidence and more self-esteem.
“And this club especially gives so many opportunities to the young people who want to learn how to box, who want to train.
“The coaches are the nicest people I have probably met, and I’m loving it at the moment.”