A popular boxing club has been saved from closure after a community effort to help its members find a new home.
Watford Boxing Club had been based in Sun Postal Sports Ground in Belmont Wood Avenue, Cassiobury, but was told it would have to leave after its 10-year lease ran out.
Club chairman and head coach Ken Walker said: “We were absolutely on the streets after 10 years of hard work and had nowhere to go – but it turned out that this was a blessing in disguise. Watford Borough Council’s Sports Development Officer Caroline Roche, the mayor and Veolia found us this new premises.
“We have worked very hard to get Watford Boxing Club up and running again and this is going to be a great club, a fantastic club. It is like going into a hotel here. We have toilets, showers and running water – none of which we had before. There is also a playing field right outside, where we can take everyone running.”
Ken hopes some of the boxers he trains could follow in the footsteps of Watford’s Anthony Joshua, who won gold in super heavyweight boxing in the 2012 Olympic Games.
Watford’s Elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill helped the club find a new home in an old council-owned storage facility in Woodside Depot, which has been massively renovated.
She said: “It’s fantastic that we have been able to save a boxing club that was struggling to find a new home and great that so many different people – including Watford Borough Council, Veolia and the community – have come together to make this happen.
“We hope Watford Boxing Club has a successful future. Possibly we could even see another future Olympian rising up through their ranks!”
The club’s new base was opened by Dorothy on Tuesday. European and Commonwealth champion Shaun Murphy, WBO European super-featherweight Mitchell Smith and a host of other boxing stars were there to welcome Watford Boxing Club to its new home.
Ken said: “We are open three nights a week and have 20 to 30 boys and girls coming in every time. We are taking kids off the streets and keeping them away from drugs, alcohol and abuse. A lot of our kids have gone through terrible times of bullying and we give them faith and belief in themselves and positive attitudes towards life – to have respect for themselves and people around them.”
Watford Boxing Club runs boxing classes for all ages and abilities from 6pm to 7.30pm on Sundays. The club hosts all-ability sessions for 10- to 16-year-olds from 6.30pm to 7.30pm and for those aged 17 and older from 7.30pm to 9pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. It is run by unpaid volunteer coaches, who are now trying to raise money to buy new equipment for the gym.
Ken said: “We have definitely got potential future Olympians here – if we can get the backing and the time to work with these kids.”