By Frank Warren
London 2012 was fantastic for British boxing. The Games provided an invaluable platform to showcase the high levels of skill and excitement that our sport generates. It is now imperative we capitalise on its heightened profile to benefit future generations.
With three champions, four finalists, and five medallists, Team GB proved the most successful boxing nation at the Games. Boxers performed exclusively to sold-out audiences at the 10,000 capacity ExCeL Arena in the Docklands, and that included all preliminary and ‘women only’ sessions. The atmosphere and decibel levels within were unsurpassed at any other Games venue.
Boxing receives just £9.5 million of central funding per four year cycle, a fraction of what is pumped into swimming (£25.1m), sailing (£22.9m), canoeing (£16.2m) and hockey (£15m). Yet our boxers still collected more precious metal than those sports, and matched equestrian (£13.4m). Greater investment will surely produce an even greater yield
There has been much talk of establishing a lasting legacy. Hopefully the collective heroics of Team GB athletes will inspire our young people to involve themselves in sport. At all levels, there are huge benefits to be reaped with regard to developing healthy lifestyles, and acquiring the virtues of discipline, teamwork and camaraderie.
No sport builds character and respect for others, like the fight game. By their own admission, 2012 Team GB captain Tom Stalker and super heavyweight gold medallist Anthony Joshua were travelling the wrong path before the Noble Art provided direction. For decades, local boxing gymnasiums have straightened out potential bullies, reformed would be ‘wrong ‘uns’ and pumped self-worth into the meek.
It is a worrying statistic that 40% of Team GB’s 65 medallists at London 2012 were privately educated. Nothing wrong with that. My own children were privately educated. However, the vast majority of our boxers are not. Most, like me, are a product of council estates in our inner cities. Few could afford to purchase a boat or a horse, or buy the exorbitant annual memberships that certain elitist sports demand.
The gym fees, kit and equipment needed to participate in boxing are nominal. It is essential that central funding generated from the national lottery now starts to filter down to the grassroots.
Without diminishing the fantastic role that performance director Rob McCracken and his extensive back up team played in preparing our elite squad for London 2012, the true heroes are the 3000 unpaid club coaches who selflessly give their time, four or five evenings every week, to install the foundations that enable the cream to flourish at international level.
GB Boxing only becomes involved once the boxer is already a national champion. The cost of transporting and accommodating boxers for such championships is borne by their clubs and, far too often, the coach himself will be dipping his hand into his own pocket. They shouldn’t need to.
Presently, GB Boxing, which caters only for elite level, receives almost double the funding that is made available for the 30,000 plus boxers at the 1,100 clubs currently active across Britain. Youngsters of both genders are queuing to join up but, without appropriate fiscal support from local and national government, clubs are struggling to cope with the demand.
Increased female participation, on the back of flyweight Nicola Adams’ gold medal, shall require clubs to provide separate changing and toilet facilities. There needs to be a redress of the central funds available to ensure appropriate provision is available for everyone to take part. That will allow the sport to grow.
Similarly, given boxing’s obvious popularity in Britain, plus the continued rise in child obesity levels here, I implore more local education authorities to consider implementing a boxing program into their P.E curriculums.
In addition to undertaking training drills that boxers use, such as shadow boxing, punching the pads, skipping and core exercises, pupils could be taught the long term positive effects that regular exercise and good nutrition have on their bodies. It would be purely ‘non contact’, without anyone coming to harm.
Those who display an aptitude could then be steered towards their local club and, if they desire, become involved in sparring and formal competition. Two former world champions who I used to promote, Colin McMillan and Duke McKenzie MBE, run such programs in schools around Redbridge and Croydon respectively. The results they’ve achieved in engaging difficult pupils, channelling aggression and improving behaviour have been remarkable. Others should jump on board.
London 2012 has given Britain a unique impetus. It’s vital we don’t squander it.
Anthony Joshua looked mightily impressive striking gold for Britain in the blue riband superheavyweight division – just as I predicted he would before the competition started.
However, suggestions that the 6ft 6in, 18 stone Watford banger’s development would be best served by remaining in the unpaid code are flawed. ‘Big Josh’ has already defeated the best available amateur opposition and needs the fresh challenges that a pro career would offer, to prevent going stale.
He has the power and stamina to become world heavyweight champion quicker than anyone previously.
Meanwhile the Post Office have issued stamps to honour all 29 British gold medallists at London 2012 that includes Joshua and Luke Campbell - that’s the only way these two will get licked.
The seven Cameroonian athletes who mysteriously disappeared from the Olympic village midway through the Games have now been found and rewarded with gold medals for ‘hide and seek’!
The International Amateur Boxing Association has issued proceedings against BBC television after it repeated its claims of corrupt vote rigging in favour of Azerbaijan boxers, who were both beaten in the semi-finals.
A researcher called me last week regarding the allegation to which I replied, “That is total rubbish”. The Beeb didn’t use my comments!
There isn’t any truth in the rumour that some of the Olympic sailing boats were missing after the Somalian team went home.