Free boxing club helps local boys "find their way in life"
With the support of L&Q, a North London based boxing club is helping young people to turn their lives around in one of the most deprived parts of the country.
Formed in 2004, the Edmonton Eagles club was set up to tackle antisocial behaviour and knife crime and provide young people with a purpose and place away from the streets.
Funding from Sport England’s Together fund, awarded by national partner, L&Q, has supported the club to run two free sessions a week and offer free programmes for schools.
“The grant has allowed us to give opportunities to those that can’t afford the fee. £5 a session may not sound a lot, but for those struggling to put food on the table, it can make all the difference.”
For club regular, Arda, it has helped him to make healthier choices: “I come to the club five times a week – that adds up to over £100 a month. Without the free sessions, I’d be eating cheap junk food.”
Enfield, like many London boroughs, is a tale of two extremes. Grange Park and Southgate sit in stark contrast to the ‘eastern corridor’, an area in the top 10 per cent of depravity in the UK and the second worst for serious youth crime.
Club Funding and Liaison Officer, Kyri says:
“People have got real struggles here. The club was set up after five boys lost their lives to knife crime in the space of five months. All of them lived in the Eastern corridor and it sent shockwaves through our community.”
A boxing ring may seem like an unusual place of sanctuary, but for the eagles, it has proven to be just that. Stories like those of 16-year-old Anthony show the sport’s unmatched capacity to engage the most disadvantaged in society – improving health and lowering crime.
“On the day of his school’s first boxing session, Anthony came into school for the first time this year. Since then, he has made the effort to go in every Thursday just so he could box.”
“From showing little interest in his education to turning up at school to pick up his revision materials on time – the transformation in his attitude and mindset is clear to see.”
Far from being a lone case, Anthony’s experience is reflective of other boys’, including Anwar.
“When I was 15, I was up to no good, hanging out with the wrong people, and going down a bad path. Getting into boxing played a huge part in my decision to go to college. I’m now at university and work part-time to support myself.”
The club has taken a proactive approach to recruiting new members, seeking out individuals heading the wrong way in life.
Head Coach, Dr Costakis Evangelou, says:
“There are turf wars between local gangs, but that doesn’t stop us from crossing borders and coaching people from different postcodes.”
Club member Elias, says:
“Boxing has given me an outlet for my anger. I used to fight outside school every day, but since coming to the club I’ve stopped.”
For the Eagles, it’s not always about succeeding in a conventional sense. The club has also become a much-needed community hub, offering services above and beyond boxing.
Dr Costakis Evangelou, says:
“It’s not about raising champions; it’s about supporting the ordinary person to reflect on their life and move away from destructive choices. There are hundreds of members who have never stepped into the ring professionally but have still transformed themselves by coming here.
Whilst physical gains ripple out to members’ mental health, overall progress spills over to every aspect of their lives. Many boys are initially drawn in by the desire to learn how to defend themselves. Then, once they get involved, they are taught a set of values that steer them towards a different life path.
“Boxing has helped me find my way in life and changed the way I conduct myself. Friends came to the club before me, and I saw what it did for them. Seeing them doing well gave me the courage to give it a go.”
A far cry from their “lager and loutish” reputation, the matches have a ‘family feel’ to them thanks to the relationships built between members.
“Parents, siblings and grandparents come along to the matches. That does a lot for a young person, to have their families cheering them on. Particularly when they haven’t always had their support in the past.”
“This place is my second home, and these guys are my family.”
The culture and ethos of the sport has seen it transcend nationalities and heal rifts between different ethnic groups.
“Enfield is a diverse community. Our club attendance captures this mix well. It’s great to see people from different backgrounds coming together and supporting each other,” says Kyri.
Bridges have also been built with the police. No more so than for Saif, a club member who was described as ‘unteachable’ by his school.
“We try to destroy that us vs them mentality that you see between the police and young boys”, Kyri said. After getting into trouble with the law, Saif was awarded a medal by the same officer who arrested him. What a 180-degree turnaround.”