Boxing is thriving at grass roots level, and for the youngsters involved a whole host of role models are available to look up to. David Haye, Amir Kahn, the Klitscho brothers, there are endless names that one could drop and each personality offering a different lesson to learn. Confidence, discipline, restraint, a sense of humour and perhaps controversially, a talent for punching.
It isn’t difficult to find amateur boxers in Sheffield, although to you and me they hardly appear amateur. These muscle-bound young men are highly disciplined and follow strict diets (which probably involve eating much more than you’d imagine).
Their body is a temple, many of these men don’t smoke and refuse to drink, preferring instead to fight each other in a boxing ring than go out on an all night drinking session.
Thousands of teenagers are discovering that boxing makes them tougher, and stronger, disciplined and more confident. It keeps them out of trouble and teaches them restraint, a rare attribute in modern society.
Nasser younis, a 20 year old student from Barnsley, has been boxing at Brendan Ingle’s gym in Sheffield since the age of 14, and can’t get enough.
“There so many positives to boxing…” says Nasser, “I don’t want it to sound like a cliché but it really has changed my life for the better in so many aspects. On a very basic level it keeps you fit and active. It helps you to look after yourself and teaches you what you need to know to get out of a difficult situation.”
“But on a more personal level, for me and the hundreds that have gone through the gym, boxing (and more specifically the Ingle way to boxing) has provided me with confidence and discipline. It really has set me on the straight and narrow path and given me the motivation to achieve what I want out of life.”
“You’re taught how to deal with people and how to handle things in a more controlled manner. I honestly do feel that I would not be the person I am today if I never started boxing. The friends I’ve made through boxing alone are enough to recommend it.”
Seth Bennett from BBC news talks about Brendan Ingle’s work
Boris Johnson even got in on the act, agreeing that boxing was one of the best ways youngsters could be kept off the streets and out of trouble. Getting together with London’s All Stars Boxing gym, the 23rd annual Mayor’s Cup was recently held giving amateur boxers the chance to show their skills and compete fairly in a high profile competition.
“…Another thing to mention is that you hear a lot of people saying ‘oh yeah it keeps kids off the streets’ but it really does. Boxing attracts a certain type of person and if they weren’t in the gym being disciplined believe me they would be on the street causing trouble, fighting etc…” Nasser adds, “When you can box you don’t need to fight, in fact the opposite is true – you avoid trouble ‘cause you don’t need it. We’re taught only fight for money; any other way is just stupid.”
Nasser is just one of many boxers at St Thomas Gym in Sheffield that has benefited from Brendan Ingle’s training. Brendan is still in the gym every day to keep an eye on anyone who wishes to come along, commanding the respect of everyone no matter the attitude they might show anyone else.
Brendan talks about his boxing gym
“80% of professional boxers were shown to have “serious brain scarring” on MRI scans“
In spite of the benefits, there are those who think boxing shouldn’t be allowed. The American and British Medical Associations have both called for a ban on boxing, claiming that the intention to inflict head injuries to an opponent is wrong and the sport too dangerous. It is said that knocking someone out can cause permanent brain damage, and according to the BBC Health website around 80% of professional boxers were shown to have “serious brain scarring” on MRI scans.
In fact boxing is already banned in many countries on these grounds, including Norway, Iran and North Korea. It is a legal requirement that Doctors are on hand during matches to provide immediate medical treatment, however there are cases where this doesn’t prevent serious injury.
But what do boxers themselves think about this? And why do Medical Associations seemingly ignore the health benefits associated with the sport, such as increased fitness and better diet?
“..you don’t really get that many injuries training, apart from the odd hand injury or bloody nose.” According to Nasser, “and my diet isn’t that much different I suppose. I just eat every 3 hours or so, trying to stick to lean meats, chicken, fish and lots of fruit and veg. Obviously I don’t drink at all or smoke and don’t eat chocolate or sweets. Most boxers or weight trainers take protein shakes and bars but not all.”
Why is boxing so popular amongst the youth of Britain? There are an abundance of role models to look up to in the sport, which encourage youngsters to get started in the first place. Confident, physically superior men from average, working class backgrounds pave the way for other young men to get inspired and involved, and poor job prospects leave them looking for alternatives.
Boxing is going from strength to strength, with more participants at grassroots level to keep up Britain’s current reputation for producing world class champions. Boxing can only move forward from here and its followers are confident it will do just that.