Picture gallery: Founder of Newport & Saffron Walden Boxing Club wants to unearth next England star
10:55 21 March 2014
Uttlesford’s first boxing club has been launched with a lofty goal in mind...to have a fighter represent England within two years.
The man behind the fighting talk is Tony Kamau. He founded Newport & Saffron Walden Boxing Club with the help of Newport Youth Club manager, Andrew Yarwood, and the pair are now hoping to see it go from strength to strength.
Reporter Sam Tonkin went along to the club’s inaugural night...
Discipline and respect are two of the key life skills youngsters will learn at ‘The Contender Gym’, according to the man who created it.
Tony Kamau, 42, of Winstanley Road, Saffron Walden, spoke passionately when he laid out his ambitions for the district’s first boxing club. “I would be so proud if I could produce a professional boxer from here in the future,” he said.
The club, based at Newport Youth Club, is open to youngsters from the ages of 6-18. The aim is to expand it to include adults, too, as the gym continues to grow in popularity.
“It’s something I’m really passionate about,” said Tony. “I absolutely love boxing. I don’t even want to get paid, in 10 years’ time I just want to be able to say that a kid who started in my gym is now a professional.
“The great Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, these guys all started somewhere.”
Eight youngsters turned out for the first training session. They were put through their paces with some fitness drills, including skipping, before donning boxing gloves and being unleashed on the punching bags.
Teaming up with Tony is Adrian Wojnowski. The 28-year-old, from High Lane, Stansted Mountfitchet, has an Amateur Boxing Association of England coaching qualification. He has volunteered to help train boxers like Saffron Walden County High School sixth former Josh Jones.
Josh took up the sport about a year ago and had been boxing for eight months when he met Tony.
“I had my first sparring session last week,” the 19-year-old said. “It felt a bit weird to be punched because I’ve never been in a fight before. You feel more dazed than anything else.”
Josh is hoping to pass on the skills he has learned to younger members of the gym. “It’s rewarding to teach those who want to give boxing a go. There is so much more to the sport from a fitness perspective that people don’t realise. It’s hard work. Boxing also makes me a lot calmer because I can let out any aggression I have in a positive way.”
The stigma of violence attached to boxing is something Tony is keen to address. “Most people think that but it’s not the case. Boxing teaches you discipline and respect. It gives you self defence but you don’t fight outside of the gym.
“Boxing is a lifestyle. I don’t drink, I’ve never done drugs and I don’t smoke. I love the style of the boxer and want others to experience it.”
Jasmine Wilson, 12, was one of those who gave the sport a go. She encouraged more girls to try it, adding: “It’s exhausting but it makes you feel like a champion.”
Manager of Newport Youth Club, Andrew Yarwood, has helped Tony set up the gym. “Tony has got so much enthusiasm for this,” he said. “So few people have that drive to do something and really make a difference. If you don’t give them an opportunity then they can’t achieve that dream, so that’s why we wanted to help by offering the use of our facility. This appeals to a different group of kids and I just know they’re going to love it.”
Uttlesford District Council has given the boxing club a grant of £1,200, which will go towards purchasing punching bags, mats and other equipment.
Three more taster sessions have been organised for tomorrow (Friday), March 28 and April 4 for youngsters to give the sport a go. The club will then run every Monday and Saturday between 6.30-7.30pm. It costs £3 per child per session, which goes towards Newport Youth Club’s overheads.
“I know football is big in this country but I believe boxing is the next big thing,” Tony said. “Come and try it out!”