Boxing to be their best selves
05 December 2018 | Wales
Highfields Amateur Boxing Club in Ely, Cardiff, is teaching youngsters far more than just sparring.
The club, which has been going since 1969, was founded by the famous boxer, Jack Avoth and his family. But now, almost 50 years on, inspirational head coach Anthony Alsop his helping boys from one of Cardiff’s toughest and most challenged estates to be the best version of themselves.
“We’re teaching them about respect, self-respect and authority,” says Anthony, 60. “This is quite a deprived area, and youngsters are at risk of falling into a life of crime or taking part in anti-social behaviour. We offer them a safe place to escape all of that, learn to box with discipline and respect.”
Children as young as eight attend the club. “People over the age of 40 aren’t allowed to box competitively, but they can still come and train,” says Anthony, who has been involved with boxing since he was 12. “These kids come to the gym, enjoy themselves and go away with a bit of self-respect. They may not have a great family life or have been in trouble at school. Here, nobody judges. We tell them it doesn’t matter if you have a degree or criminal record, as soon as you step in the door, everybody is equal. We tell them that we don’t have to be there, and neither do they. If they don’t like things, they can leave.”
Anthony is one of five volunteers, along with Roy Thorogood, 70, who became involved with the club almost straight after it was founded.
“The kids really look up to him, it’s amazing to see,” says Anthony. “We have had lads who’ve spent time in jail, but want to get back on the right track, and come to us to help. And it does. We’re there for them to chat to too, about any problems they may have, can try and advise them when we can.”
Anthony says that the club gives the kids a chance to mix with people they wouldn’t normally.
“Whereas before there might have been some agro or rivalry, here, everyone’s equal. We have people from Eastern Europe, all races, and the travelling community – some of our volunteers are from this community too,” says Anthony. “It helps us promote tolerance, respect… and give these kids a better chance at life.”
Anthony’s even helped train boys up to world title levels as professionals too.
“One lad, Scott Jones, has been to Lithuania, Spain, Scotland to name a few countries, we’ve helped open up the world to him,” he says. “But we just want to give these people a chance. A chance they might not otherwise have.”