This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 02/04/2018.
A new boxing gym has opened in Surrey Street in Croydon with the aim of stopping so many young people getting stabbed
It has been set up in response to rising levels of knife crime throughout Croydon and other parts of London.
A new gym has opened in Croydon with the aim of tackling knife crime in the borough.
The WBC Cares in the Community boxing gym, located on Surrey Street, opened in March and has been set up in response to rising levels of knife crime throughout the town and London as a whole.
The gym’s objective is to engage youths who are potentially at risk of becoming involved in knife crime, providing them with a sense of purpose as well as positive values.
Bruce Smith, a Croydon boxing trainer, set up the gym with the help of WBC Cares, a worldwide organisation set up by the World Boxing Council (WBC) to enable boxing to give back to society.
As well as tackling the problem of knife crime, the gym is designed to provide teenagers with credible role models and help with self-esteem and anger management issues.
Scott Welch, chairman of WBC Cares UK and a former British heavyweight champion, said: “I started reading horrifying stories about the level of knife crime in London and how the lives of a generation of young people were being scarred by the rise in the carrying and use of knives.
“Stabbings in London are at their highest level to date with a 23% increase over the past year. The first three months of 2018 have seen a 50% increase in stabbings and the death of 15 young men from stabbings.
“I decided that I wanted to do something to help and the World Boxing Council [were] keen for me to do this through WBC Cares.”
Mr Welch saw for himself how much of a problem knife crime in Croydon is after joining the borough’s police force during a night shift.
“Knife crime is a problem at the moment and we have been out with the Croydon Metropolitan Police Service on a night patrol to experience this,” he said.
“Its evident knife crime in Croydon is a problem. There have been quite a lot of stabbings in the last year, not only in Croydon, but in London as a whole.”
The Surrey Street gym, which boasts all the necessary equipment including a ring, punch bags and weights, currently employs four trainers and has already began working with a handful of teenagers.
WBC Cares is using the gym as a pilot in the hope it proves it’s possible to teach youths about the dangers of knife crime.
If successful, similar programmes will be set up in other parts of London.
Mr Welch added that he knows how effective boxing can be in transforming a young person’s life – because that’s what happened to him.
He said: “What I learned was that while initiatives like police stop and search can put a brake on the problem, any long-term solution involves engaging with these people and giving them a sense of purpose and making them feel wanted and needed.
“I know from personal experience how effective boxing can be in helping young people who are on a path to crime. I was one of them and boxing changed my life.
“I have also seen the affect that boxing has been able to have on boys in my gym whose lives have been turned around by the positive aspects of boxing.
“There are already some kids being trained in the gym. We have been in contact with the police, the local authority and local charities who have identified some kids who may get into trouble.
“Although this is a boxing programme this isn’t something fully about teaching kids to box.
“It’s about additional life skills and to some extent giving strong role models so some of these kids can identify with some of our guys who have had similar experiences to them.”