Boxing's a big hit with Wayne

THIS is my life and my passion, says a boxing gym owner who is taking kids off the street and giving them a place to channel their aggression in a safe and positive way. Wayne Armstrong, 42, has run the North Herts Amateur Boxing Club from his gym at S

THIS is my life and my passion," says a boxing gym owner who is taking kids off the street and giving them a place to channel their aggression in a safe and positive way.

Wayne Armstrong, 42, has run the North Herts Amateur Boxing Club from his gym at Station Approach near Hitchin train station for two-and-a-half-years, providing a place for young people to get fit, learn discipline, gain in self-confidence and use their energies positively.

Wayne, a former amateur boxer and now an England major panel judge and referee, explained how he got things going.

"I originally started in Jackmans estate community centre in Letchworth and spent one year there. Then we moved to new premises in Hitchin which could be dedicated to boxing," he said.

"I paid for it all out of my own pocket. Funding is extremely difficult so we are always looking for major sponsors or donations to keep this expanding club alive. Grants and funds from councils are non-existent because of the nature of the sport - some people just don't like contact sports.

"I subsidise the amateur club and the kids pay a subscription. We also put on boxing events and I run a ladies' boxercise class and spinning which helps.

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"The amateur age group ranges from 11 to 34. The juniors are 12 to16, and I'm trying to start a group for six to 11-year-olds.

"We have 20 boys that compete in amateur fights and 20-30 juniors who are training, then other things like boot camps for fitness.

"The kids come from Hitchin, Letchworth, Stotfold, Shefford - all around really.

"They get fit and learn discipline and we give them a safe environment where they can take out their aggression - and not with knives or guns. Anyone can carry a knife around, but they are cowards and bullies.

"We have also had kids from schools who have been bullied, with no self-confidence and we teach them self-defence.

"We won a High Sheriff Crimebeat award in 2006 for safer community work for keeping kids off drugs and drink."

Wayne began boxing at the short-lived Arlesey Boxing Club when he was 11. He got involved with officiating after a wrist injury ended his career, first in Australia in the early 1990s and then in the Home Counties.

He is excited about the increasing profile of the sport in the UK, he said: "Boxing is really taking off. Most athletes now add some form of boxing to their regime because of the cardiovascular aspect and we have eight boxers going to the Olympics this year, so that will also create interest in the sport.

"One major thing is it is being introduced into schools from September as part of the sports curriculum so I would like to get into schools and teach boxing and fitness.

He has high ambitions for the future of the club and boxing in general.

He said: "We are looking to move to bigger premises in the next couple of years. With England having a world amateur champion at the moment, the Olympics coming up and England ranked sixth in the world and the reintroduction of boxing to schools - at the moment boxing is booming.

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