A boxing charity that helps deprived youngsters change their lives through sport has received funding from the Home Office and Dulverton Trust, allowing it to expand into Wales so that more vulnerable young people can have a fighting chance at a better life.
Empire Fighting Chance already operates across 14 sites in south Wales, including Merthyr Tydfil, Barry, Cardiff and Rhondda Cynon Taff. Here, they work with youngsters from deprived backgrounds who are experiencing behavioural and psychological issues. Many have been excluded from school or have turned to anti-social or criminal behaviour.
The charity, which has former British Lion and Welsh rugby union and league star Tommy David and former World Champion Lee Selby as its Welsh ambassadors, now plans to expand its presence across Wales and set up more sites, as well as looking to recruit a new coach.
Empire Fighting Chance was founded 12 years ago when Jamie Sanigar and Martin Bisp spotted two young men dealing drugs in a park near the Empire Boxing Gym in Bristol. After inviting them in to their own amateur boxing club in St Paul’s for a training session, the pair turned up again the following week with friends and, within six weeks, more than 50 youngsters were attending sessions five times a week.
What started as a small boxing project has grown into a charity, giving more than 3,500 young people the chance to harness the power of sport to overcome personal, behavioural and social difficulties by taking part in non-contact boxing with intensive personal support to help them realise their own potential.
Martin Bisp, co-founder of the charity, said: “Empire Fighting Chance exploits the grittiness of boxing to attract young people by using physical activity to inspire changes in their lives.
“We use the sport to mentor and educate and to provide therapy and careers support. We target some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people aged from eight to 25 and most live in poverty, poor housing and workless households. Common experiences include family breakdowns, domestic or substance abuse and chaotic home lives. Many come to us with a range of emotional and behavioural issues, including anger, anxiety, depression and very low self-esteem.
“They express their emotional distress in ways that lead them into trouble rather than care and support, so we have created our own unique approach to help people make a substantial and lasting change with cutting edge psychology, therapy and intensive personal development through non-contact boxing.”
Empire Fighting Chance runs a structured 20-week programme. Each week young people learn how to box and in between physical activities, the coaches embed powerful evidence-based psychological principles to encourage heathier thinking. Through mentoring, young people build the foundations for good physical and mental health, which results in a new sense of purpose, regular physical activity, a healthy lifestyle and positive relationships.