An Ilford teenager has gone from trouble with the law to Olympic dreams thanks to BoxUp Crime.
The charity provides free boxing lessons to young people aged seven to 19 who are “at risk of having their lives ruined by crime” and opened a new gym in Ilford earlier this month (October 8).
It was founded in Barking & Dagenham in 2013 by boxer Stephen Addison and expanded to Redbridge last year with the help of £500,000 from Redbridge Council.
So far, the scheme’s biggest success story is 16-year-old Fabian Williams, who lost friends and even family relationships due to crime but is now determined to compete for Team GB.
He said: “I was involved in a lot of crime. A couple of my friends went to jail and I lost my relationship with my sister and a few family members.
“I was tired and wanted to stop, I wanted to turn my life around. People will think I’m crazy but I say it was God that put me on the pathway with Stephen.
“Before I did not have a good relationship with the police, I didn’t really like them because of the experiences I had.
“Now I’m always in the gym so I don’t really have to see them and, when I do, they’re always busy with someone else.
“I have been able to get away from crime, restart my life and rebuild relationships. (With my sister) it’s not quite there yet but we’re getting there.”
Fabian now has a job delivering sessions with the gym and can pursue his interest in music using its studio facilities.
He is also determined to compete in the Olympics for Team GB, although not in boxing but in eventing, having ridden horses for most of his life.
Founder Stephen Addison, a boxer who was made an MBE for the scheme last year, said Fabian was first referred to them “this time last year” and was “a lot of hard work in the beginning”.
He said: “We went to his house and he was not really engaging, he did not want to participate and didn’t think it was for him.
“When he used to come, you had to tell him and his friends not to misbehave or cause problems, now he’s the one telling his friends to focus.
“He’s evolved into a really good role model and a really helpful kid. He’s focusing on college and on his music.”
Fabian recalls that, while he had been interested in the programme, he was “always busy getting caught up in things that (he) should not have been”.
He credits much of his turnaround to one of the scheme’s employees, Beni Mondua, who grew up in Ilford around many of the same people and showed him “a different side of life”.
Regarding his own job at the scheme, he said: “The best part is I can really show people what not to do and how to deal with things.
“They talk about their highest level to their lowest level and I have been through everything. I went through it so they don’t have to.”
The new gym has a boxing ring, classroom and in-house music studio and is the new home training gym for world-renowned boxer Anthony Yarde.
The council was able to help fund it through the Community Infrastructure Levy paid by developers.
Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal, who attended the launch, said BoxUp Crime’s work was “nothing short of incredible”.
He said: “This new gym will ensure even more local young people are able to access the mentorship, support and training they offer.”
The gym is free for young people, with a small fee for adults, and runs sessions on Thursday evenings.
More information about the programme is available here: http://boxupcrime.org/