A fundraising campaign has been launched to set up a community boxing gym in Penwortham.
Paul Morris, a retired professional boxer, is looking for £10-15,000 to kit out the shell of a building converted from four changing rooms at Vernon Carus Sports Centre in Factory Lane.
It comes after interest boomed in his free classes for youths on the Kingsfold estate, aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour and inspiring youngsters.
Paul, 39, said: “I was brought up on rough estates where there’s been drugs, gang rivalries and violence.
“Boxing helped me steer away from all that, it’s basically saved my life. Now I have three kids, a 16-year-old lad and two young girls, and I was worried about my eldest and his friends.
“I decided someone had to do something, and for a couple of years I was trying to set up a gym, but not one person was interested. The community centre said no, the churches said no, the schools said no, so I thought ‘stuff it’ and set it up on Kingsfold Park, padding kids up, doing fitness and doing basic techniques.”
In May Paul was elected as a town councillor and secured use of a room at Penwortham Community Centre, where he runs two classes on a Saturday - one for under 12s and one for over 12s.
Paul said: “The classes are building to a point where we need somewhere else.
“The children are getting quite advanced and it’s lovely to see their progression.
"The feedback I’m getting from parents is that the kids’ behaviour is massively improving and home and in school, and their confidence has improved. It’s food for my heart. We are literally changing lives and we just need to home to do it in.”
Paul said his work has been supported by Lancashire Chief Inspector Gary Crowe and by sports partnership group Active Lancashire.
What's the aim?
With help from friends, Paul has knocked down dividing walls in the old changing rooms to create an empty shell. Despite equipment donated by the Blackbull pub and charity Addaction, he still needs help funding rubber flooring, a ring, bags and basic equipment and believes it will take between £10,000 and £15,000 to complete the work.
He said: “It’s not a massive gym at all, but it can be an intimate gym where I give more detailed lessons to smaller but more numerous groups. It’s important to keep these classes going for free.”
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