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Alternative Issue: Street Crime Beaten Back by Boxing Clubs

Submitted by on March 5, 2013 – 12:41 pmNo Comment

Dave Ryan uses boxing to help troubled teens turn their lives around.

Dave Ryan doesn’t just deliver mail around one of London’s toughest neighbourhoods he has spent most of his life and spare time trying to improve it.

Having been a community volunteer and local postman for over 42 years he has put blood, sweat and tears into his local boxing club where he aims to improve quality of living for younger people and trying to decrease street crime in the heart of Islington.

Most people think that tougher policing or community service is needed to tackle crime but the boxing club proves it is an alternative, positive way to do just that.

Ryan  has lived in Islington all his life and believes it is very important to help the younger generation to channel their aggression and have somewhere to go. He said: “I believe it is so important to get involved in the community and help young kids who have nowhere to go and feel safe, it’s crucial for now but far more importantly the future.”

The head coach at the Times ABC (Amateur Boxing Club) situated at the back of Kings Cross Station has recently said that it turns boys to men teaching self-discipline.

Ryan grew up in a working class family in the heart of Islington with two older brothers.  Just like the youths of today he can relate to the street life and has had his fair share of involvement in local gang culture, drugs and experienced many hard times growing up around Islington with no money and two  older brothers to compete with.

At 23 Ryan  met his now wife Sandra and quickly matured through the experience. He decided that he had seen too many young men go down the road of self-destruction and just like boxing did for him he wanted to make a place where kids could come and feel at home and channel their aggression in a controlled way. “I was bullied heavily as a child and then got myself involved in all kinds of gangs as that was the only thing to do, I got into boxing and it forced me out of this way of life, I wanted to open this boxing club to give kids a place they could go and show them that there is a way out.” He said.

Over 2,000 crimes were recorded in Islington in January 2013 with over 400 being violent assaults and according to Islington council the crime rate of the area is on the rise. Ryan said: “Most police officers around here know me by name and have even referred boys to the boxing club, I’m not saying It always works but I’d say 8/10 of them come back and change themselves for the better.”

“Some kids are not educationally minded and don’t want to sit at a table and talk, they would rather come down the boxing club and work out, the trainers down this club are like fathers to these kids and teach them an art form in boxing that could one day be the reasoning for their life change.” He continued.

Former youth offender turned Semi-Professional boxer, Marlon Mellish, is living proof that boxing can transform people’s lives. Mellish was involved in one of Islington’s biggest gangs and after his second time in youth offenders prison decided to give boxing a go. He now is the proud owner of two national boxing titles, a semi-professional boxer and has a national sports diploma, he said: “It’s plain and simple and might sound cheesy but, without this club, I’d either be dead or inside, it has changed my life in every way and showed me that there are people out there that care and want you to succeed, I truly thank Dave and boxing for saving me.”

The boxing club also provides opportunities to those who have previously been on the streets; it work closely with recent youth offenders and youngsters doing community service to try and improve their way of life, Ryan said: “This is far more than a boxing club, it’s a classroom, a self-help book and a workout all in one, we do all we can to improve young people of the area and show them that crime is not the only way.”

David Cameron believes that the ‘Big Society’ is a way of mending broken communities however  Ryan disputes the argument. He said: “All these politicians like Cameron talk about the Big Society like it’s their idea, I think it’s a joke, it’s been going on for bloody years, not just in what I’ve done but in communities and working class districts all over London, I think that communities clubbing together to help does a hell of a lot more than what any politician can ever do!”

For all his hard work, in 2009, Ryan was awarded An MBE for outstanding services to the Royal Mail and community improvement with the Boxing Club. Speaking about receiving the royal letter, he said: “When I first picked it up I thought, oh no it’s a congestion charge fine! When I saw the royal stamp I was overwhelmed. When I walked up to the Queen at the palace I didn’t know what to do with myself, I was surprised at how firm her handshake was for such a little lady it was surprising, I’d love to get her down the boxing club and see what she could do!”

Ryan believes boxing can be used as effective rehabilitation but does not believe it will have a dramatic impact on the way that Islington chooses to tackle its crime and violence. He said: “I’m not saying that a boxing club or any community help programme can solve world peace, but it’s a step in the right direction in a road to recovery and learning for these young people that they are unable to get this elsewhere. It helped me and many others over the years, so why shouldn’t it be noticed, I mean I met the Queen, it shows that everyone can achieve their dream even if it is a long shot!”

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