Budding young boxers from Clapham entered the ring with an Olympic silver medallist at a community sport and fun day last weekend.
Clapham Fest saw heavyweight boxer Joe Joyce, who won Team GB’s final medal at the Rio Olympics, put youngsters through their paces at the event in Agnes Riley Gardens, run by World Series of Boxing team the British Lionhearts, in collaboration with housing association Metropolitan Housing.
After sparring with community members, Joyce, a former British Lionheart himself, posed for photos with aspiring boxers and talked to parents.
“I thought the level of boxing that I saw was good. There were some pointers that I helped out with,” said the 31-year-old, who is soon set to announce details of his first professional.
“I think coming to events such as Clapham Fest is a great opportunity for people to get involved in boxing and later on they can go and join a boxing gym and start competing, and maybe even end up on Team GB.”
Joyce – the only British male to have won a ‘grand slam’ of medals at the Olympic Games, the World and European Championships and the Commonwealth Games – also wowed youngsters with his Olympic medal, giving them the chance to wear it for themselves.
“This was the first medal I’ve actually held – and I won it,” he added. “I didn’t get to see an Olympic medal until I won one – I hadn’t even held one, so although I keep it close to my heart I don’t mind showing it around.
“It’s great to be an inspiration for younger people coming through and giving them something to aspire to who can work to achieve something, like winning a medal.”
Social worker Aisha Thomas, 28, from Croydon, stumbled across the event by chance after going past on the bus, but was pleased to have stopped and investigated what was going on.
“I’d heard about Joe Joyce – I watched in him the last Olympics. He told me he didn’t start boxing until a late age, so for me I thought that was very inspiring,” said the social worker.
“The biggest thing I’ll take away from this event is that I’m going to go and buy some boxing gloves and join a women’s boxing club.”
The day was also a memorable one for Charlie Sturrock, a pupil at Penwortham Primary School in Tooting, who was presented with a trophy by Joyce for showcasing some fine boxing skills at the event.
“It was really fun to box with Joe Joyce, because it’s not every day that you get to box with an Olympic boxing silver medallist,” said the 11-year-old.
“He gave me some tips, he taught me to keep my hands up when I’m boxing and keep them close to my face.
“I’m going to take home my trophy that Joe gave to me – this is what I’m going to remember the day by.”
And Emmanuel Coker, employment coordinator at Metropolitan Housing, said: “Boxing is a sport for everyone, and at Metropolitan we find that it is a way to work with the 16-24 year-olds – those who are least engaged with the job market.
“We knew that using someone like Joe Joyce would attract our residents and show them that if they put their mind to something, they can do anything.
“We had a steady flow of community members coming through – with a huge diversity of people. I even jumped in on the pads and I realised how difficult boxing actually is!”