Interviews

Gloves Not Gunz: Building brighter futures via boxing

In all honesty – boxing can be one hell of a shady sport at times. It seems we’re no longer surprised by ever-frequent anti-doping breaches, broadcaster-driven agendas, and ticket-touting scandals. As fans, we acknowledge the existence of these issues, but nobody cares enough to do anything about them. We subconsciously convince ourselves that these problems are part and parcel of modern boxing, and continue to observe and discuss the sweet science with a quiet acceptance of all the negative baggage that comes with it. With all that said, it remains important to shed light on the positive work being done under the radar to use the sport in the most romantic way possible – to make a better life for those in need.

That’s where the Gloves Not Gunz initiative comes into play. Founded by Croydon Boxing Club’s Adam Ballard and youth crime practitioner Ben Eckett, the London-based charity is aiming to try and help steer local youngsters away from a life of crime and violence through the medium of boxing. BNTV caught up with co-founder Ben Eckett, and found out a bit more about the positive work going on in Croydon’s local community. Full of enthusiasm, he recalled how the flourishing project got started and discussed the initiatives currently running to help the next generation of youngsters.

“Adam’s been running Croydon ABC for the past seven years or so,” He told us. “I’ve been working with young people involved with violence and crime for the past ten years, and Adam was wanting to get this Gloves Not Gunz project going. He had this idea for quite a while, and I approached him and suggested we do it together. Obviously, he’s got the experience, he’s been a boxing coach for a long time, and he’s quite well known in the community. I’ve had the experience of working with young people caught up within violence, and I’ve ran my own charity before as well.

“We started putting some ideas together, and the first thing that happened was that we set dates to have community sessions. That’s what we’re doing at the moment. We’re running these sessions that are open to young people from the ages of 9-18, and they’re completely free. They’ll learn some boxing, do some fitness, and at the end of the session, we’ll run a workshop for half an hour on youth violence and some of the issues surrounding it. This type of work is really to give young people the strategies to avoid getting involved in that world, and to try and bring the community together a little bit too.”

Though a self-funded project, Ben, and Adam are currently in the process of trying to secure finance from local businesses and authorities in order to be able to continue their exceptional work. The charity is also working directly with local youth offending teams to encourage young people involved with violence into their education and mentoring program – which was developed by Ben himself. As he pointed out to BNTV, our education system isn’t always flexible enough to support the complexities and needs of those from a less privileged background – something which Gloves Not Gunz is attempting to do. He said:

“Getting in the gym and doing something physical, when maybe they don’t have that much support for that in school, is great. Our whole education system is based around academia, so for the kids that are really good at building things and doing things involving sport, they don’t fit into that. We get a lot of people that have been excluded from school because they don’t adhere to that system. This is an alternative style of education I suppose.

“Obviously, we use boxing as our tool, but it could be anything. It’s just about engaging young people in something positive. They can build positive, healthy relationships, because a lot of the people we work with don’t have that in their lives. They need those positive relationships, and to feel supported.”

Gloves Not Gunz will continue to run workshops in the coming months, with a big community open day already being planned for some time during the summer. This, as Ben told us, will offer the young people involved a chance to showcase their boxing abilities and put what they’ve learned into practice in front of celebrities such as Idris Elba – who has confirmed he will be attending. Professional boxers like Cruiserweight prospect Isaac Chamberlain are firmly behind the charity too. The Brixton-based fighter began boxing aged 12 after his teenage cousin was killed – with his mother determined to steer him away from a life of violence. Chamberlain recognises the importance of the work being done by Gloves Not Gunz, and he told us:

“The work they’re doing is very important. Kids these days don’t have anyone to look up to. There’s nobody around them that they can look at and say, ‘Wow, I want to be like him! If I work hard, I can achieve something,’. They don’t have positive role models. When I was young, nobody ever told me I could be something. The coaches in the gym, though, even if you’re rubbish, they’ll tell you that you can be a world champion and that you’re good for something. Those words lit up my heart as a kid. It made me feel so good inside that I kept coming back. I never heard those kind of words from teachers, from family, or friends either.

“It really raised my self-esteem, and charities like these are really important. Kids need direction. People portray gang violence as fashionable, and if you go on social media, people make it out like it’s a glamorous thing. It’s really not – social media’s full of lies. If you bring these kids into boxing, they’ll be tired after training. They’ll be too tired to run around on the streets afterward because boxing takes a lot out of you. Also, they’ll really want to go back, learn more, become disciplined and learn how to fight.

“It’s an amazing thing that they’re doing, and I hope they carry on. Boxing teaches you patience; it teaches you to be relaxed and assess any situation calmly. Sometimes in that ring it gets hostile, but you learn to control your emotions because the second you lose control and get angry, you get beaten. Even if it’s just hitting the bag or something, you can learn self-control, and you’ll feel a lot better after. It tames you and makes you assess everything a lot better. If your emotions are tamed, you won’t act out of rage or anger. You look at things differently, and that’ll prevent a lot of fights, a lot of stabbings and a lot of things acted upon through instincts.”

We at BNTV wish everyone involved every success in the future, and you can read more about the charity at www.glovesnotgunz.com.

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