Back then their gym was a cramped room above a pub when a hike in the lease left them fighting for their lives. Head Coach, Shane Thomas, refused to throw in the towel and approached Sport Wales for a Development Grant to get them off the ropes. In boxing terms, they were facing a standing count, with just three months left on their lease before they went under. Sport Wales was happy to step into the ring to support their cause to secure new premises. Shane picks up the story...
|Shotton ABC' converted a derelict building into a thriving boxing gym|
There was nothing in there; no water, no electric, no roof on it and we just did it up. That’s down to Sport Wales, who’ve been great, and helped us with it. Without the funding we’d have never changed premises. Well to be honest with you we would have actually closed down because we couldn’t afford the rent.
The membership’s shot through the roof. In the other gym we probably had 15 lads boxing. Now we’ve probably got 40 lads training and boxing, plus we’ve got girls’ fitness classes, we’ve got men’s fitness classes. It’s open seven days a week, near enough all day. We’ve got four professional boxers and three of them are unbeaten. It’s just really escalating.
The Save the Family kids who come to us have all got problems but when they come to the gym they’re normal people. That’s the thing about boxing gyms; people are nervous about going to one but they soon realise when they’re there that everyone’s there to help them. Even the professional boxers will help with training. If they see a kid doing something wrong they’ll help him out. The younger lads look up to the pro boxers because they want to be there. We’ve got a couple of kids there who’ve got a few problems and issues, like anger management problems and mental health problems, and they’ve really come along well.
They’re nice kids. They don’t get in trouble in school. If anyone gets caught street fighting they’re out, we won’t have it. It’s like a youth club, they train hard but they have a laugh with us. It’s good for them. We had a little lad there, he’s only seven-years-old, but carrying a lot of weight and he loves it. The first time he couldn’t do it and cried but he’s kept coming, kept coming, and he’s lost about three stone now.
Everybody thinks boxing is like fighting. It’s nothing like fighting. We don’t teach them to fight, we teach them to box. The fitness side is amazing, you can’t beat it. We do a lot of fitness because I’d say 80% of boxing is your fitness. Even a bad, fit boxer will beat a good, unfit boxer. He’ll beat him every time because he’ll just keep going. All my lads are fit when they box. They enjoy getting fit and the subs are only a pound.
We don’t even charge some of the kids. We had one lad there, he could barely afford to come twice a week and we wanted him to box because he’s a good little boxer. I said ‘well don’t pay.’ Now he trains six times a weekand has just won the novice championships. It’s not about money, it never has been with us. If they don’t pay, they don’t pay. The professional lads obviously pay and I get a percentage of their money but it all goes back into the club, every single penny.
Even though the gym’s a lot bigger we are struggling for space already. It’s mad how many people come now. At the women’s boxercise class we get between ten and 15 people every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We’ve just men’s fitness classes have just started now. It’s hard for the lads who are boxing to train, especially if they’ve got fights coming up.
We’re trying to keep it in the community by putting local shows on and all the good boxers seem to be coming to us. We just want to build it so that people come to watch it. That’s what keeps the club going is the tickets on the amateur shows. We want the local people to come and support the local lads. All the money that comes from the shows goes towards the club; it buys the equipment and pays the bills.
It takes over your life! But I’ve been in it all my life. We had two coaches, me and Clive at the old gym, and now we’ve got five registered coaches. We’ve got another lad coming in; he’s a registered coach through England and he’s moved down to this area. So we’ll have six coaches.
It’s not a journeymen club; our lads want to win all the time, it’s a mentality.
This blog was written in conjunction with the launch of a strategy for Community Sport in Wales. If you’d like your say, get involved in the debate on twitter – using the hashtag #communitysport and you can mention us @sport_wales