ITC: Aspire Boxing Club, Sheffield

March 21 2024

Matchroom make front page news in bid to save Sheffield boxing gym.

On Tuesday night, Head of Community Development, Alex Le Guével, made a presentation to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Boxing that outlined the many benefits of grassroots boxing clubs and the importance in supporting and, in some cases – saving them. Roll on a couple of days and Matchroom Chairman, Eddie Hearn, alongside Alex paid a visit to Aspire Boxing Club in Sheffield to practice exactly what we preach!

Aspire Boxing Club has been a beacon of hope for disadvantaged youths in the Arbourthorne community for over 30 years. Providing free boxing training and support to thousands of young people and their families, the club has tackled issues such as poverty, violence against women and girls, knife crime and community cohesion.

Situated in one of the most deprived areas of Sheffield, with high rates of disadvantage and a distinct lack of affordable/free recreational activities, Aspire is more than just a club – it’s a lifeline. Without the gym, young people would undoubtedly be at far greater risk of becoming involved in antisocial behaviour, knife crime and gang related incidents – all heavily prevalent within the local area already.

Unfortunately, this vital resource is under threat. The Spring Lane Pupil Referral Unit, which houses the club, wants their facility back – essentially due to the rising rate of referrals they’re receiving.

According to statistics from End Child Poverty Coalition (2018), 34% children in Sheffield are living in poverty after housing costs are considered. In areas like Arbourthorne where resources are scarce, facilities like Aspire play an essential role not only as an outlet for these children, but also as an instrument for social change.

We cannot let this happen without putting up a fight. We urge the local authorities to reconsider this decision, or provide alternative accommodation that would allow the club to continue serving its community effectively.

You gave up your time to be with them, you gave them hope!

- Ronny Tucker

Head Coach, Ronny Tucker, was full of praise for Hearn and Le Guével, as he detailed the positive impact the visit had on his young members.

“I really respect what you did, attending our gym is something you didn’t have to do,” Tucker told the Matchroom cameras.

“It’s great for the young people, especially ours – who currently feel let down by people in authority due to the gym closure. You gave up your time to be with them, you gave them hope,” he continued.

“I have been running a gym for thirty-four years and we have been in this building for seven years. The closure of the gym and the lack of support from the Head Teacher at Spring Lane PRU is very short sighted, in my opinion. The area where we are based is one of the most deprived areas in Sheffield. It has its fair share of anti-social behaviour, youth crime, gang related crime and knife crime. There are very few facilities for young people, so closing a free facility, for me doesn’t make sense.”

They’re the beating heart of the sport.

- Eddie Hearn

Speaking about the club’s plight, Eddie Hearn was full of passion as to why this vital community facility needs saving.

“If people don’t realise how important these facilities are to the community, they have no understanding of society at all,” stated Hearn.

“I’m worried about us losing these clubs. They’re the beating heart of the sport. People say ‘you should help’ – and we are, but there’s only so much we can give. I’m sure the government don’t want these clubs to go under, but it’s frustrating,” he continued.

“Will the people support a campaign to make sure local boxing clubs like Aspire can survive?”

All I can say about Aspire is it's inspired me to carry on boxing.

- Marius Murhala

To fully understand the positive impact that the boxing gym can have on people’s lives, it’s often best to hear from the members themselves – the people that live and breathe the gym, day in day out.

During our visit to Aspire, we were fortunate enough to hear from two young men, Ethan Cain and Marius Murhala, who explained exactly what the gym means to them – and why it simply must be saved.

“I started boxing at Aspire aged ten, when I met Ronny,” said Cain.

“I lost a lot. I lost about twelve fights in a row and ended up packing in boxing for the last four years. During that time, I went down some bad routes and had some bad times,” he continued.

“I had to make the decision of either coming back here, or staying in that bad position. I decided to come back last year, going all over the country with Ronny, Steve and the coaches – and it’s been amazing. It’s completely changed my life. It makes me a bit emotional!”

Murhala expanded on this with details of his own valuable experiences at Aspire.

“Compared to the rest of you, I’m pretty new to the gym. I came here in my six week holiday, overweight, nothing to do – no job opportunities, no nothing,” described Murhala.

“Since I’ve come, the support from all the coaches, all the fighters, it’s been great. They’ve helped me through my mental struggles – and even when I’ve lost, they’ve been there texting me, supporting me, making sure I came back to the gym,” he continued.

“All I can say about Aspire is that it’s inspired me!”

With attention now turning to Saturday night – and Dalton Smith’s toughest test yet against Jose Zepeda – we mustn’t lose sight of the other huge fight on our hands.

Aspire’s petition to save the club has now reached over 1,600 signatures, with the next goal standing at 2,500. The club’s future still very much hangs in the balance, meaning every single signature counts. Collectively, as the boxing community, we need to get behind this vital cause and ensure that Aspire secure a long-term home so that their amazing work can continue to transform lives.