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Hackney’s Boxing Academy helps prove sport is punching gang culture in the face

PUBLISHED: 15:44 26 January 2017 | UPDATED: 15:58 26 January 2017

Coach Yilmmaz Mustafa (right) doing pad work with Jay Bramble, 14. Picture: Dieter Perry

Coach Yilmmaz Mustafa (right) doing pad work with Jay Bramble, 14. Picture: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

Boxing has long been a tool used to help transform the lives of disaffected youngsters, and a Hackney academy has helped to figure out why.

GB heavyweight Lawrence Okolie (left) doing pads with student Izzet Kizilkaya, 16. Picture: Dieter PerryGB heavyweight Lawrence Okolie (left) doing pads with student Izzet Kizilkaya, 16. Picture: Dieter Perry

Governing body England Boxing has published the findings of a study into the sport’s success in helping kids from deprived communities steer clear of gang culture and succeed in life.

Hackney has a history of producing successful fighters, some of whom were saved from the dangers and temptations of the streets themselves. So it’s no surprise experts turned to The Boxing Academy in Hackney Grove to conduct their research.

The centre offers alternative education for teens aged 13 to 16 who have been excluded, or threatened with exclusion, from school.

It uses boxing discipline to help keep 40 kids on the straight and narrow through a mix of traditional learning and training sessions, which they do every day regardless of whether they’ve ever boxed before.

Students, coaches and Head teacher Anna Cain with Team GB boxer Lawrence Okolie. Picture: Dieter PerryStudents, coaches and Head teacher Anna Cain with Team GB boxer Lawrence Okolie. Picture: Dieter Perry

And it works. The exam success rate is higher than it is for other pupils in the same situation and has led to the academy being given free school status by the Department for Education.

The academy was delighted to be involved in the study, and hosted the launch earlier this month in front of heavyweight Team GB boxer and local boy Lawrence Okolie, who reached the quarter finals in Rio last summer.

Headteacher Anna Cain said: “The project offers academic evidence for what we all already know: boxing is uniquely suited to help young people through difficult times in their life.

“I hope this is a foundation for more research.”

The study found there were five factors at play in helping to create the kind of success stories that have inspired dozens of Hollywood films.

It said boxing had a “gritty” credibility among teens and instilled in them skills that are lacking before they step into the ring, like discipline, control and focus.

It also helped them channel their aggression and offered them a sense of community, as well as providing strong role models in their coaches – who may have also come through difficulties in their own lives they can relate to.


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