A BOXING club which has produced a string of Welsh champions over 30 years will continue to pack a punch – thanks to cash confiscated from criminals.
Clwyd Amateur Boxing Club in Rhyl was founded in 1989 by the late Johnny Ritchie, born John Richard Jones, who fought at both amateur and professional level and sparred with legendary world middleweight champion Randolph Turpin.
Johnny’s son Darryl Jones and grandson Justin, who have followed in his footsteps by running the club, also enjoyed successful boxing careers.
The three generations of the boxing family have helped emerging talent thrive at their gym but club coaches have been credited with helping turn round the lives of members who could have been tempted to follow a life of crime.
Now thanks to a £2,500 grant from a special fund distributed by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, the boxing club can remain a heavyweight presence in the community.
The Your Community, Your Choice scheme is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT), which is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year.
It is the eighth year of the awards scheme and much of over £280,000 handed out to deserving causes in that time has been recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The scheme is aimed at organisations who pledge to run projects to tackle anti-social behaviour and combat crime and disorder in line with the priorities in Commissioner Arfon Jones’s Police and Crime Plan.
This year there are 21 grants given to support community organisations with an online vote deciding the successful applicants from among the many projects submitted and over 32,000 votes cast.
Justin, a former Welsh Guardsman who served in Northern Ireland, won seven national titles in his boxing career and is now assistant head coach and vice-chairman of the club.
He said: “We are helping to keep people off the streets and out of trouble. Being part of the club allows members to turn their attention to something positive, that they can gain a lot of satisfaction from.
“We have had people who have thanked us for what we have done for them. They have said how much they have benefitted as individuals from taking up boxing and told us how much difference it has made.
“As well as teaching them how to box, we are teaching them the importance of self-discipline and respect for others.
“We want to see our members doing well for themselves. We are here to help them.”
Chairman and head coach Darryl, who has been involved with the club since it was founded by his father, has seen many individuals grow through being put through their paces in the gym.
“We have had plenty of people coming here who have benefitted from being involved,” said Darryl, whose wife Caroline is also involved at the club as a junior coach.
“We’ve had youngsters who have been bullied. They have found it a big help to come along to the gym and their confidence has grown.
“There are also people who have found it has helped their mental health to be involved at the gym.
“It is great to see how many youngsters want to be a part of the club. They enjoy being with each other and it is nice to see how much it means to them.”
The past 12 months have been difficult for the club, with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meaning they have been unable to open their gym on Morfa Bach.
They have also had to put on hold their popular amateur boxing shows which raise much-needed funds and allow the public to see the club’s talent in action.
The club, which is run on a voluntary basis, has still had to pay bills despite the gym being closed but now there is every reason for club bosses to smile, thanks to the funding boost from Your Community, Your Choice.
It is to be put towards new equipment, the upkeep of facilities and travel costs when attending championships elsewhere in the country, helping ensure club’s good work can continue for years to come.
Justin said: “The last year has been difficult so we really appreciate getting this funding. We are very grateful to everyone who voted for us and we hope that later this year we will be able to return to the gym.”
The club has about 60 members aged from six to 40, who prior to Covid were regularly attending sessions at the gym, and is seeking to increase its female membership.
Another organisation to be successful in securing a grant in Denbighshire was Llanferres Playing Field and Recreation Association, which has scooped £2,500 to help maintain the village’s park and playground.
Also getting a cash boost is Denbigh in Bloom, which has been awarded £2,000 to support the planned regeneration of Lower Park.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones said: “I am delighted that my Your Community Your Choice fund continues to support community projects across North Wales for an eighth consecutive year.
“This unique fund allows our communities to decide which projects should get financial support through our on-line voting system and the response has seen almost 15,000 members of the public vote for a total of 30 projects.
“These projects help to support my Police and Crime Plan whose purpose is to ensure that North Wales Police is paying specific attention to those points which have been identified as crucial by the public, me and indeed by the force itself.
“Many of you will be aware of the recent Third Sector consultation that I carried out which has resulted in an update to my priorities to include the ways in which we address emerging trends including Organised Crime and the exploitation of vulnerable people.
“As part of this I aim to ensure that a clear focus continues around county lines crimes – a particularly vicious form of criminality that exploits young vulnerable people into a life of crime which is extremely dangerous and violent and from which there is little escape.
“I am delighted to see that a number of your applications aim to address this issue and support our young people.
“Community groups are vital to the citizens of north Wales, and in helping to ensure that our communities continue to be some of the safest places to live, work and visit in the UK.”
PACT chairman Ashley Rogers added: “Your community your choice is a really valuable way of supporting communities and putting the choice of which projects are supported in their hands.
“It’s a very democratic process which is why I think it’s been such a long running and successful scheme.
“It’s lovely project to be involved with and you can directly see the benefits from the funding in strengthening our resilient communities.”
Assistant Chief Constable Sacha Hatchett said: “This money includes cash from assets seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This is a particularly vital message as through the professionalism of North Wales Police Officers and with the support of the Courts, we are able to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their pockets.
“Our operations target all types of serious criminality including cross border crime, armed robbery, criminal use of firearms as well as drug production, importation and supply.
“Those who are involved in serious and organised crime often live well beyond their means, drive expensive cars, live in large houses and frequently holiday abroad; they may well be living lifestyles on the proceeds of crime.
“Our communities continue to play a part in this success with local intelligence information given to our officers that help us to bring these criminals to justice.
“It sends a really positive message that money taken from the pockets of criminals is being recycled. This is turning bad money into good that’s being used for a constructive purpose.”