Boxing is a sport littered with stories of young boys and girls changing the path that their lives were destined to follow. Endless tales of professional fighters recalling their first steps into their local gym as a reason to get off the streets, away from crime, is as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking – an opportunity to box has often filled the void that has been left exposed by wider society as well as government turning a blind eye to the wealth gap in the United Kingdom.
This, of course, isn’t unique to the UK. Fighters across the world are often born in to poverty, with their fight for life transcending into a fighter’s mentality inside the ring. Speaking to former super flyweight world champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai last year, it’s hard to compare the lives of my fellow Britons and those of rural Thailand: “I have been through many difficult times,” Sor Rungvisai stated. “I have been a trash collector and a security guard. I used to pick up food from trash bins to eat and survive. Boxing has changed my life and the lives of my loved ones. I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities that I have gotten, and I am working my hardest to be the best I can be.”
These humble beginnings aren’t unique, but the levels of knife crime in the UK – and especially in London — is fast becoming an unwanted tag of association not seen, or understood, globally.
Resigned to a life of crime from an early age, limited opportunities for the youth to change this path has seen knife crime rise to its highest levels since records began in the UK. London accounts for a third of all knife crime offences in the UK, including 74 murders in 2018.
Boxing has always provided a way out for pockets of the population that have been dealt with the harshest cards in life. Gloves Up, Knives Down is a social enterprise that launched this year “committed to supporting young people living in communities affected by knife crime, providing access to boxing training to help them lead fulfilling and healthy lives away from crime.”
Their raison d’être is clear: “We believe that through the discipline of boxing we can provide young people with the opportunity to channel their energy and frustrations in a more productive and positive way. Helping to build young people’s physical fitness and mental well being as well as helping to create stronger communities.”
With a clear aim to lower the rate of knife crime by encouraging young people to take up boxing, Gloves Up Knives Down has harnessed support from a wide range of boxers and gyms across the country, committed to implementing their clear ethos of “Preventative Intervention”.
David Haye, Chris van Heerden, Anthony Fowler, Issac Lowe, Luke Watkins and Ted Cheeseman are just a number of fighters helping spread the word of this movement, with funding primarily coming from the sale of t-shirts off of their website — www.glovesupknivesdown.co.uk.
”The income generated through the sales of our T-shirts, and third-party donations, allows us to provide our Boxing Kits to community groups and schools to be able to provide regular boxing training sessions. These branded and desirable kits include gloves, a head guard, a vest and shorts, and a rucksack; all ready to facilitate the delivery of boxing training sessions.”
These sales also help to provide facilities that might otherwise be unavailable to certain areas of the community. “Through the sales of our “Gloves Up Knives Down” T-shirts, and third-party donations, we are generating revenue that can then be used to fund grassroots community initiatives that will provide access to boxing training sessions to young people living in communities affected by knife crime.”
Last weekend saw knife crime in the capital back on the front pages after two teenagers and a man in his 30s were killed after five separate attacks in London over a 24-hour period. The pressure on the government – particularly London Mayor, Sadiq Khan – is growing by the hour, however, the Metropolitan Police understand the responsibility the nation has as a whole to support initiatives and education around this crisis.
The Met appealed to the public for information. “The police cannot solve this problem alone,” a spokesman said. “Communities have a vital role to play in tackling violent crime. We want to hear from anyone who may have information about people who may carry knives or firearms, or who are involved in organised drug crime and violence.”
Gloves Up, Knives Down has the power to inspire those destined for the wrong path in life, changing their future at the lacing of their first pair of gloves. It may currently seem like a small drop in the ocean, but boxing continues to lead the way in supporting the forgotten sections of society.
Get yourself a t-shirt here: https://glovesupknivesdown.co.uk/