Up to 700 children are punching their weight in local gyms as part of Belfast City Council’s first Day of Boxing today (Thursday, 20 March).
Young people were invited to ‘Try It’ sessions at local boxing clubs, community and leisure centres as part of the city council’s Amateur Boxing Strategy. This aims to support and develop local boxing clubs and the council has allocated £200,000 annually for the first three years to boost coaching, support development, and attract new participants.
Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Lord Mayor of Belfast said: “Boxing has a long and cherished history in Belfast and we have had more than our share of successful award winning boxers.
“The council, in partnership with boxing organisations, has drawn up a strategy to develop the sport and facilities encouraging even more people, including girls and women, to take up the sport.
“It is about raising standards and providing high level competition to encourage both the boxers and those who support them. Boxing promotes physical fitness, stamina and a competitive spirit that is valuable outside the ring as well as in it,” added the Lord Mayor.
Among the local amateur boxing clubs offering free sessions were Cairn lodge; Glean; Saints; St Pauls; and St Georges ABC.
Children from St Oliver Plunkett’s Primary School and Christian Brothers School, (CBS) Glen Road, joined a ‘Try It’ session at Glean ABC in Hannahstown. Irish and HKO (Denmark) Champion, Alexandra Lynch, a pupil at St Louise’s Comprehensive College, gave tips to 10 year old Lucy McIlhatton from St Oliver Plunkett.
Alexandra said “I got into boxing because my brother was coming to the club and I wanted to come as well. It’s been great and my friends at school think it is great too.”
Mark Morris, who is soon to take part in his second professional match, put the boys from CBS through their paces. “It is good to see so many people trying it out. I have been involved for 13 years and I was just like them when I came in, but it is like a family now,” said the 26 year old.
Dessie Hill, Club Secretary and coach said: “We have six coaches in today and have sessions scheduled every hour from 9.30am to just after midday. Some of the children have never been inside a boxing club before but I am sure some of them will be back after their experience.”
Everyone who took part in the ‘Try It’ sessions was offered tickets to attend an international match between Belfast and Spain at Andersonstown Leisure Centre which was the highlight of the day.
Malachy Scott, Secretary of the Co Antrim Boxing Board said: “The investment from the City Council’s Boxing Strategy is now an integral component of the County Development Plan.
“The Development Plan and the assistance of the City Council are already proving its worth as we advance to the Commonwealth Games and Rio beyond,” added Mr Scott.
More information on the boxing strategy may be found at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/boxingstrategy