Boxing champ launches Ilford boxing scheme to steer young away from knife crime
- Credit: Archant
Box Up Crime is a new scheme aiming to encourage Redbridge teenagers away from gangs and crime.
Growing up in inner city London, drug dealing, stabbings and gangs were as much part of the scenery as the number 55 bus.
But instead of becoming part of the environment around him, Anthony Yarde didn't pick up a knife - he moved to Ilford and put on some boxing gloves, picking up a couple of light-heavyweight boxing belts in the process.
Yesterday (Thursday, June 6) the 27-year-old fighting champ joined Leader of Redbridge Council Councillor Jas Athwal and former gang member Stephen Addison MBE to launch a new free sports initiative for young people in Redbridge called Box Up Crime.
Founded by Mr Addison, the scheme helps deter 13 to 19-year-olds from getting involved in gangs by offering a mixture of boxing training, educational training and mentoring.
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The sessions have already helped reduce serious youth violence in Barking and Dagenham by 25per cent and pupils getting into trouble at school by 28pc. Box Up Crime is being rolled out in Redbridge thanks to a £500,000 grant awarded to the council.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Yarde told the Recorder he moved to Ilford 10 years ago and the change of area and taking up boxing helped give him focus.
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"I wasn't in a gang but I knew a lot of people who were and there were lots of people getting stabbed and even shot around me," he said.
"Boxing gives you discipline, it helps you physically and mentally - it gives you an identity.
"When I was younger I would wish for something like Box Up Crime.
"The results so far [in Barking and Dagenham] speak for themselves."
Mr Addison set up the initiative after he was lured into a gang and sold "the dream that crime pays".
A keen boxer as a teenager, he was expelled from his Barking school and turned to less moral pursuits for five years to make a living.
It was only after a vivid dream about being locked in a prison cell that he started to make changes.
He enrolled at university and won gold in a boxing championship which was covered in the newspaper at the time.
In the same edition, he spotted another article about a friend and former gang member who had been jailed for life for murder.
The contrast made him determined to go back help young people in his community, like himself, escape a life of crime.
"It's not about just setting up another boxing club, it's about creating an environment where young people feel safe and can aspire to be what they want to be - that's what we want to do here in Redbridge," he said
"Box Up Crime has a clear message, we're trying to beat up crime because crime has stolen dreams from our young people.
"One kid Benny came to Box Up from the age of 12 - he could have got caught up in drug dealing but he made a choice to come here - now he is the number one amateur in his weight division in the country.
"We want so many more Bennys.
"These kids don't need to die."
Mr Addison said he also visits prisons and spars with young people who have been excluded from school.
"This one guy could hit harder than Anthony Joshua, but he is sitting in a cell doing life," he added.
"Imagine if you could grab all the talent in Redbridge and create more Bennys rather than prison."
Box Up Crime will run sessions at City Gates, Clement Road, Ilford at 7pm on a Thursday and there will another session at Hainault Youth Centre, Huntsman Road on a Tuesday at 7pm.
Cllr Athwal said the "fantastic, innovative programme" uses resources communities already have - like school halls and town centres instead of traditional boxing gyms - to reach young people .
"The work Stephen and his team are doing is nothing short of incredible, working directly with young people to show them another path away from gangs and violence and towards fulfilling their dreams and aspirations. It is truly inspiring," he said.
"After only one session [in Redbridge] attendee numbers jumped by 25pc - word is clearly spreading.
"And so after speaking to Stephen and seeing the great work Box Up Crime are doing I knew we needed to get involved and help expand the programme.
"This pioneering partnership will help steer our young people away from criminality by offering them something new and engaging in the hope that their confidence is boosted and that they may one day fulfil their potential and become leaders within our communities."
The council will be working alongside Box Up Crime to raise awareness of the dangers of gang membership and holding information sessions in schools for both children and parents.
"Keeping our children safe from the dangers of gangs, knives, and violence is our top priority in Redbridge and by working with Box Up Crime we really can make a difference to local families," he added.
"I've been really impressed with what Stephen and his team have achieved so far and I am proud that our council can now support their efforts.
"I'm looking forward to working together and seeing the positive impact this partnership will have on Redbridge families."