CROYDON IN CRISIS: Former world champion says that council failing to provide a base for boxing club will cause a massive ‘backlash’.
By STEVEN DOWNES
Seconds out! A community boxing club is facing a fight for survival, set to be kicked out of their training base by the council at the end of this month.
But New Addington Amateur Boxing Club have a new “recruit” backing their cause – a former world champion who says that the council’s planned eviction deserves to be knocked out.
Duke McKenzie, a Croydon sporting hero, paid a visit to New Addington ABC yesterday to show his support for their plight.
These days, when he is not part of the ITV Sport commentary team, McKenzie runs his own gym in South Croydon. In his own, 16-year professional boxing career, McKenzie was a British, European and world champion, winning world titles at three different weights – a real rarity in what’s known with good reason as “the toughest of games”.
And McKenzie knows that New Addington’s boxers face a tough fight for existence.
“Without youth clubs such as New Addington ABC, a lot of boys and girls with get lost in knife and gun crime and other vices,” McKenzie told Inside Croydon.
“There isn’t a single boxer I know personally that boxing hasn’t given a lifeline to.
“It goes without saying that if this club is lost, the backlash will be 100 times worse.”
Making the boxing club homeless is an omnishambles of huge proportions, even by the standards set by Croydon’s dysfunctional council.
Last year, the council was finally able to declare open the New Addington Leisure Centre, two years late and costing £25million – nearly £10million over budget. Problem was, no one had considered including in this prestige sports centre providing any space for one of New Addington’s longest-established and best-run sports clubs.
This oversight is made doubly worse because – until Simon Hall’s resignation as a councillor earlier this week – New Addington had had two council cabinet members directly responsible for this area: Hall, who had been finance chief for six years, including signing off the ever-rising bills for the leisure centre, and Oliver Lewis, the cabinet member for sport and shit.
New Addington ABC was formed by residents and volunteers half a century ago and has a well-earned reputation for its important community work with youngsters, especially recently when government-imposed austerity has seen so many cuts to vital youth work.
The boxers were based at the Timebridge Youth and Community Centre in Fieldway for 20 years. When that was closed as part of one of the council’s “regeneration” projects, they were allowed to set up in the Addington Community Centre – another building that the council has condemned.
But on March 31, NAABC’s one year’s grace comes to an end. A council attempt to accommodate them in the shiny new leisure centre up the road has been dropped as being “no longer either operationally or financially feasible”.
Welcoming Duke McKenzie to New Addington was Bill Graham, one of the club’s coaches, and Scott Ainsworth-Payne, the chair of the local residents’ association.
“Croydon Council must provide a venue for NAABC,” Ainsworth-Payne said.
“It has made a promise and it must stick to it. New Addington Residents’ Association exists purely to support and fight for residents in our town. The existential struggle that New Addington Amateur Boxing Club is going through right now deserves our support.
“NAABC is more than just a boxing club. It’s a place where people, especially young people, come from across our town to learn valuable skills in confidence and self-belief. It’s a place where people can find inspiration, motivation, friendship and where they can find their true self.
“Sporting and social groups like NAABC are vital in our community, but sadly they are dying breed as our council not only fails to support them, but the council’s incompetence actively undermines the work that the dedicated staff at NAABC are doing to keep the doors open.”
Read more: Newman and Hall resign as councillors claiming a ‘witchhunt’
Read more: ‘Shameless’: public react angrily to councillors’ resignations
Read more: Croydon In Crisis: Council handed biggest bail-out ever
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I really hope a lifeline is handed to the boxing club.