Boxers are holding an event in a Warwick estate to help people in their fight against mental health issues and to knock out youth offending and knife crime.
Matthew Wilkins, 31, who lives in Leamington, has been on the ropes with his own personal problems for many years including having to deal with the loss of his friend Scott Bosley who was murdered in Warwick on Boxing Day 2017.
He decided to launch a Warwick branch of the Academy of Hard Knocks - a national initiative aimed at providing support for youths who are in need of guidance and role models to break the cycle of youth offending, or who find themselves on the wrong path and want to change their life for the better.
Matthew, who was a promising fighter in his younger years before he broke his hand and turned to drugs and alcohol for a time, has been holding free boxing classes for all at the Packmores Community Centre in Lyttleton Road on Saturday mornings and has organised a free mental health awareness event which will take place at The Foresters Arms pub in Crompton Street, Warwick, on Saturday October 26 from 10.30am.
He said: “It has pushed me, I’ve suffered with mental health issues, my wife has and my friends have,
“I’ve started this to help people and let them know that there is help out there.
“The academy has done amazing things since it started in London - the work it has done with reducing knife crime, tackling people’s mental health issues and breaking the cycle of youth offending really works and I wanted to bring that here.
“It’s not just about boxing, I want people to know there are people who they can talk to.
“One of the kids who comes here was barely talking three weeks ago, he was just lying in bed or if he did go out he would carry knives because he was anxious and scared.
“He handed those in to me last week.
“I’ve put him through some circuits and he now has a full time job and all he does now is train - he’s the first person here every week.
“It’s not really about me, it’s about helping the community. but since I started this it has made my life better and it’s given me a meaning.”
Matthew’s friend Michael Blackstock, from Leamington, is aiming to make a comeback as a professional boxer after suffering from mental health issues over the years,
Michael, 32, a former English Masters title holder who spent some time in prison in his younger days , will give a talk about his experiences at the event this month .
He said: “I want to raise awareness about mental health and get people to talk about it and to reach out if they need help and support mentally,emotionally and physically.
“Before I went into boxing I was just angry but it has allowed me to be more in control and to stop me worrying about everything and fearing that I had to fight to prove myself.
“It also gave me discipline, structure and I was eating right, sleeping right and I didn’t have any time to be hanging around on the street because I was training and in the gym - I was able to put my anger into a little box so I could think properly and clearly.
“It allows you to find yourself.”
The event will also include talks by mind coach Richard Taylor and input from Simon Green of AIM for Recovery.
For more about the event follow Matthew Wilks on Facebook.
Aim for Recovery can be found on Facebook.
*** The Academy of Hard Knocks is a national initiative aiming to provide support for the youth community.
It is specifically for those who are in need of guidance and role models to break the cycle of youth offending, or who find themselves on the
wrong path and want to change their life for the better.
During a 12-week programme, participants are educated both mentally and physically.
Each will receive training and life- coaching from some of the top athletes and coaches in Britain including UK1 British Mma, and a host of other professional athletes, nutritional fitness and personal training specialists.
Participants also receive lectures from ex-offenders, local authorities and a guest celebrity over the course of the programme.
Matthew Wilkins has met the AKH founder Sam Rowe and is aiming to establish and expand the Warwick branch and to gain grant funding to pay for equipment
For more information about the academy visit the website https://www.theacademyofhardknocks.com/ ***