(Credit: Nottingham School of Boxing- Facebook)

The Nottingham School of Boxing is filled with high-quality coaches, inspired by their leader Marcellus Baz, providing vulnerable young people in the community a safe space for mentoring, counseling, education, and of course boxing.  George Cowell caught up with one of the school’s boxing coaches, Declan Best, to find out more about the gym and some of his concerns.

Boxing is a sport that can facilitate the growth of many positive attributes for people, young and old. Like many other sports, it can be a driving force for change in someone’s life.

You don’t have to look too far to see examples of this, as world champion Anthony Joshua has been open about time spent in prison earlier in his life, and the effect boxing had on changing his fortunes.

In this sense, boxing is unique in the way it offers people from various different walks of life a different path.

One of the boxing coaches Declan Best was also given a chance for a new life by boxing saying:

“I moved to Nottingham about a year and a half ago to find my passion and avoid distractions in London, on my second day I went to the Nottingham School of boxing and asked for an opportunity, he [Marcellus Baz] gave it to me then and there.

“Ever since then I’ve been working hand in hand with him, supporting young people and adults”

Declan could not understate the importance of boxing and the gym to young people in the area, not just at the gym but also the work they complete with schools and vulnerable youth in the area.

“We teach them how to keep fit, and stay engaged whilst teaching our boxing”

Declan also stressed the importance of teaching focus to young people saying “we see young people who often struggle to stay engaged.

“Boxing is an art, I know myself with what happened to me, it takes years to learn, it’s important to stay consistent and I see a lot of people staying committed to the mindset and committed to this art”

On top of the regular boxing sessions, the gym is known nationwide for its sister organization ‘Switch Up’ which exists to empower Nottingham’s younger generation.

It offers children and young adults a chance to break the cycle of offending and reoffending, offering mentoring, counseling, and personal development workshops amongst an array of other important work.

Declan himself feels that working at the gym has changed him as a person and he can see a similar effect is achieved with other students, explaining:

“I feel like I have developed as a person, and learned to support people, I am much more positive, and that’s the attitude of the whole gym, we share our values, so it’s a nice place to be welcomed to, and it’s a very nice place to work”

Since the Covid-19 Pandemic began, the Nottingham School of Boxing has had to close its gym temporarily. Whilst it has continued some of its vital community work, Declan feels as though the repeated lockdowns could be putting tremendous stress on the young boxing students.

“With the Covid regulations, we can’t physically touch each other, so for a boxer, it’s stressful to not be able to do the things that boxers do, it knocks [the students] motivation, it knocks their confidence and it can affect both the boxers and the coaches”

Declan also mentions that members of the gym are also missing out on valuable socializing by working with teammates and building relationships, which Declan views as a problem because people used the gym as “an escape”.

Declan also expresses major concern about the growing frustration among students which is growing because they are “losing strength outside the gym” while he also wonders if this could lead to many boxers losing “their motivation to carry on”

When pressed about whether students of the gym could potentially turn to negative influences, Declan entertained that there was always a possibility of “young people falling into bad influences all over the country, not just in Nottingham” and he confessed he found it to be concerning.

Whilst the Nottingham School of Boxing has continued to offer online zoom sessions that have kept large a large amount of boxers engaged, Declan stresses that nothing can compare to being physically in the gym “hitting the bag.

“People can get confused, and sometimes people don’t understand but when we’re in the gym, we’re all doing it together so it’s a whole different vibe”

Declan goes on to express his enjoyment “to even watch the kids when coaching, to see the excitement and the energy these kids have, it’s being wasted sat at home” and in this way, Declan even explains he feels as though “we’re letting the kids down”.

Whilst everyone is yearning for this pandemic to finish, there are 100’s of young hungry boxers out there, itching to get back into the gym and a few coaches that are ready and waiting to shape the youth of Nottingham in a deeply positive way.