‘Kids that should have been locked up have gone on to be a success’ – that’s why communities can’t afford to lose their local boxing clubs
Miles Harding knows more than most when it comes to understanding how crucial amateur boxing clubs can be within communities across the country.
During his 20-year stint as a coach at Leigh Park ABC, he is in no doubt both he and other trainers played a part in helping members 'avoid prison or trouble' through the club.
And that is why he has such great concern at what the future might hold for gyms and amateur venues across Britain amid the pandemic.
The grassroots boxing scene, along with all other sport at 'non-elite' level across the country, has been hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Amateur clubs are currently closed for the third time in less than a year with the country placed under a third nationwide lockdown.
The picture is bleak across the board but grassroots boxing was dealt a further blow as it was not one of 11 sports included to receive Government funding support through the £300m Sport Winter Survival Package.
But Harding, now a professional trainer working with Michael Ballingall's crop of fighters, says something must be done to ensure the future of amateur boxing in Britain.
‘I would like to see that the help amateur boxing clubs need is given. I don’t know what will happen to these clubs,' he confessed.
‘For the right sort of town and community, the boxing club is very important.
‘Quite a few of the boys from the boxing club have gone on, you think when they come through the door, ‘we’ll do well to keep you out of prison or trouble,’ but some of them have got a good little business, kids and a stable family.
‘I’ve saved some people, I can pat myself on the back, kids that should have been locked up have gone onto be builders, plumbers, gone into the Army and been a success.
‘We go to places like the nasty end of Wales, Bristol and London - it’s more than a youth club, put it that way.
‘I do worry a little bit about it.'
Leigh Park ABC is now run by Billy Bessey who returned to the club where it all began for him as a 10-year-old a little more than a year ago.
Despite the struggles faced, Harding is delighted to see his former gym being 'brilliantly' run.
But it's those he doesn't know as much about he remains fearful for.
‘The one big thing that worries me at the moment, my old club is Leigh Park ABC which is being brilliantly run by Billy, but some clubs are in real trouble,' added Harding.
'I see that Anthony Joshua put some money in but I’m not really sure if it filters all the way back and it’s not really his job, it’s for the Government to do.
‘Some of these boys, say Billy who’s an ex-soldier who works on the bins and does this in the evening, it’s not his full-time job.
‘They’re community places, for sure.'