Just a few months ago the idea of a boxing gym for kids in Victory was just a pipe-dream in Paul Hampton’s mind. This Friday it becomes a reality and the whirlwind few months in between still have the 40 year old’s head spinning.
“I can’t believe it, I can’t believe we’re now so close. It’s exciting,” he says.
The club’s new facility sits next to Harvey Norman on the busy St Vincent St, in a building owned by the Gibbons family. It has a “chill out” room in the front, changing rooms, toilets and showers for boys and girls in the middle of the building and at the back an expansive room with a boxing ring, punching bags, speed balls and plenty of room for skipping and other exercises. It’s a boxer’s paradise and “one of the best around”, says Paul.
The gym was made possible thanks to the hugely successful Fight 4 Victory held in June. It attracted a full house, 26 locals willing to pull on the gloves and get in the ring to help raise $50,000 for the club.
That money has been used to buy equipment, upgrade the building and meet other costs. Basically, it’s been used to transform the club from a bulging programme of 80 kids in a classroom to a proper boxing club with excellent facilities.
Whakatu Boxing Club and Fighting Fit Boxing have also come on board and will operate out of the gym and Paul has a few volunteer trainers that will run the classes.
He says the club’s focus remains strong though and believe it or not, it has very little to do with boxing. “We’re building self-esteem, we’re teaching kids about healthy choices like healthy food and exercise and we’re providing a safe place for kids to come after school and give them an opportunity to burn off energy.”
The club is essentially free for kids, a nominal $5 annual fee is all that’s asked, so every kid has the opportunity to be a part of it. Classes for teenagers and adults will cost but Paul says the idea behind the club is to make a difference in the community.
The gym will open after school five days a week with a mix of adult classes and elite training for adults held on week nights.
Paul says the success of the club has been down to the support it received for the Fight 4 Victory event. “That hasn’t been lost on me at all. The number of people that supported us was unreal, we basically had the whole town behind us. This is Nelson’s gym.”
The official opening on Friday will bring together the fighters that took to the ring that night, supporters and even Dean Lonergan, of Duco Promotions, the country’s largest boxing promoter. Plans are already underway for the 2014 Fight 4 Victory.
Paul says the club will also be having an open day on Friday for all kids who are interested in coming along and learning more about the gym, what it does and whether they’d be keen to be a part of it.