Boxing’s probably taken more black eyes outside the ring that it has and ever will inside the squared circle, but it has an almost intangible lure to those who have been bitten by the ‘boxing bug’ and helps people in more ways than many might think.
Boxer’s and boxing people know hardship, the two go hand in hand.
Just by its very definition, boxing and its combatants come from tough backgrounds, the mean streets of New York, London, Mexico City and a thousand other places. The journey from rags to riches and then back again to nothing is an all too often repeated story in the history of the sport.
Everybody wants to know the champ, everybody wants a piece of the champ, but when the glory and the money are gone he becomes yesterday’s man, just another face with a story to tell to anyone who will listen.
A classic example of the fact that you can go from nothing to everything and back again is the story of the ‘Blade’ in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Iran Barkley from the South Bronx area of New York city was at the top of his game during this time.
(Iran Barkley career tribute – hat tip to Lyle Hill)
Barkley held world titles in the middleweight, super-middleweight and light heavyweight divisions with notable wins over the likes of Wilford Scypion, Thomas Hearns and Darrin Van Horn, with career earnings of over 5 million dollars.
But it didn’t last and by November 2010, everything it would seem was lost for him when he was evicted from his Bronx apartment, penniless and unemployed and becoming homeless in the process.
The former champion was on the ropes and canvas bound, but with help from BronxWorks and the Ring 10 boxing charity, the former world champion turned his fortunes around.
It is not only the ex-champions of the world however who have fallen on hard times that need help, because misfortune and homelessness don’t discriminate and it can happen to anyone.
Help can come from the most unlikely of places and there are always good people willing to help and one such place I visited recently is St. Peters Boxing Club in South East London. The club is situated above St. Thomas Church in Charlton Maryon Road in London.
Come Friday nights the church of St. Thomas provides a welcome shelter for the less fortunate, a meal, a wash and a warm bed for the night.
But the service doesn’t stop there, with the coaching staff of St. Peters Boxing Club (which can be found above the church) providing an open door policy to the gym where anyone is welcome.
With the full facilities of the club laid on to help if only for a few hours, its a welcome reprieve and a chance to forget the harsh day to day realities of life on the streets for some.
This is the softer side of boxing, the side few outside of the game ever get too see – but it not uncommon.
St. Peters like many other clubs has had a long history of helping the unfortunate, the unfocused, the troubled and the lost, with its willingness to accommodate anyone regardless of their respective situation or problems.
With the coaching staff of Paul Martin, Scott O’Connor and many others behind the scenes to help out St. Peters, it’s coaching staff continue to promote all that is great about this wonderful sport of boxing.
On my recent visit to the club, the two men above Paul and Martin told me:
Paul Martin: “It’s a privilege to help others less fortunate than myself through the medium of boxing. Its very rewarding.”
Scott O’Connor: “The one thing boxing has taught me over the years is we all fall at one time or another in our lives, sometimes others take longer to get back up and need a little help.”
Boxing All Saints.
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