A historic Flintshire boxing club with a history of producing champions is back in the swing of things after lockdown.
Buckley Boxing Club was founded over 100 years ago and its regular sessions at the gym off the town’s Drury Lane are once again attracting over 300 boxers aged from six to 60.
They have been praised for their contribution to the community and to mental health by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin who paid them a visit.
He said: “They’re doing a great job and have been for over 100 years and I’m sure they’re playing their part in keeping young people off the streets and engaged in positive activities.
“It’s good to come here and see the wonderful work they are doing within the community and the support they offer, especially to people who may be suffering with mental health issues in these difficult times.
“That includes people who have been in the Forces in Afghanistan and in my Flintshire County Council role as member for the Armed Forces that really resonates with me.
“They are really helping people of all ages in this area and putting them on a good path and that’s to be applauded.”
In 2018 the boxing club received a grant of £2,000 from the Your Community Your Choice fund which is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT).
Over the past eight years the fund has handed out £280,000 to deserving causes using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.
PACT chair Ashley Rogers: “This is a very long-running community project at over 100 years and it shows the level of commitment and the positive response it has always received locally.
“Over the years PACT has supported the club and been in close partnership with the Commissioner in encouraging this and similar organisations.
“Now that we are hopefully emerging from Covid lockdown positive mental health and physical well-being are paramount and this is a great club for us to support.”
Boxing Club chairman Mark Field, originally from Chester, had a distinguished amateur boxing career and turned professional with his first fight slated to be against future world champion Joe Calzaghe only for a routine brain scan to reveal a cyst.
That ended his career but alongside secretary Jim Williams and a dedicated team of volunteer coaches he has overseen the club’s continued growth and an improvement in facilities.
Mark, a registered mental nurse in Ruabon, said: “The club has had a number of Welsh champions over the years and we have plenty of good prospects here at the moment but what is really important is that the kids turn up and enjoy it.
“It has also been very important for people’s mental health and that includes me because I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the disappointment of not being able to turn pro did affect me.
“I suffered from depression even though I was a mental health nurse but things are difficult for people, especially at the moment and we want to make the people of all ages who come here happy.
“That applies to the parents who bring their children here too because all of us involved here are very passionate about Buckley Boxing Club.”
Among those working with the youngsters is 18-year-old Luis Gonzalez, from Buckley, a Welsh junior champion in the 70-kilogram class and is now aiming to be Buckley’s next senior champion at 80kg.
He said: “I started coming here at 14 and have been here ever since and I love it. Everyone here is so supportive.
“I’m just trying to get as much experience here as I can and hope to win a Welsh senior title for the club and turn pro in two or three years time.”
A six-year veteran of the club is Shay Taylor, aged 11, of Hawarden, who said: “I’ve been coming here since I was five and I just love all of it.
“My dad was a boxer and I’d like to become a professional – my heroes are Mike Tyson and Tyson Fury.”
Kayden Johnson, nine, from Connah’s Quay, said: “I started here six months ago and it’s really good and everyone helps you. I like being in the ring upstairs best.”
For more information on the work of the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner go to https://www.northwales-pcc.gov.uk/en/home.aspx