ITC: Collyhurst & Moston ABC, Manchester

April 10 2024

The Matchroom Punch Machine took to the streets of Manchester as Moston welcomed home one of its own!

Collyhurst & Moston ABC was the destination as Frank Smith and the Matchroom team found themselves quite literally ‘in the community’ on Wednesday night, visiting the home of one half of this weekend’s main event – Zelfa Barrett.

Ahead of his showdown at the AO Arena with Jordan Gill, Barrett was joined by fellow participants in Saturday night’s show, Rhiannon Dixon, William Crolla and Jordan Flynn – as the fighters traded knowledge and advice with junior club members, before taking to the streets for a Punch Machine Challenge!

Our partners at Everlast provided a host of giveaways, including hoodies and boxing gloves, which were duly signed by the athletes in attendance.

It was also fantastic to welcome Jamie Sanigar and Aaron Morton from Empire Fighting Chance, with the Bristol-based charity playing an influential role in mentoring Collyhurst & Moston ABC over the past 18 months, leading to the club more effectively engaging with their local community through their 0161 Project and making a genuine impact with their work.

This gym has taken me off the streets, it's changed my life.

- Zelfa Barrett

Speaking to the assembled youngsters, Zelfa Barrett explained just how much it means to be headlining a show in his hometown.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life, since I was small like you and I feel privileged to be speaking in front of you guys in my own gym,” beamed Barrett.

“It’s been a dream of mine to fight at the AO Arena and now obviously it’s here now, all of you are going to come and just lap in the moment with me.”

He continued by expressing just how important Collyhurst & Moston ABC has been in his journey and development.

“I owe this gym everything. It’s taken me off the streets, it’s changed my life,” stated Barrett.

“I might have gone down a different road if it wasn’t for this gym, but I stayed grounded, stayed dedicated – and I’m showing that dreams do come true. If you keep your head down and beat obstacles in life, you too can get to where I am.”

Collyhurst & Moston ABC

Founded in 1917, Collyhurst & Moston Amateur Boxing Club has a 100 year tradition of providing a space where people can go to train, learn new skills and make friends – helping to create a positive identity for local young people.

From 2012 to 2019, the club was managed by former amateur and professional boxer, Thomas McDonagh, who is widely recognised as a Community Ambassador.

In 2019, the club decided to begin the process of converting into a charity, with the primary aim being to scope the potential for further investment in order to enable a host of additional activities to take place. Later that same year the charity was born. To allow the new entity to prosper, a board of trustees was established – with all members possessing senior experience within industries such as education, social investment, business and the voluntary sector.

In addition to its traditional boxing offer, the club also hosts the 0161 Project, set up to offer alternative education services to mainstream schools, independent schools, PRU’s and other agencies. They work with the most challenging and vulnerable young people in Greater Manchester, helping to build confidence, discipline, life skills and a positive identity.

Even if just one of these kids does something in life, it's still worth the time you put in.

- William Crolla

Also in attendance was William Crolla, looking to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Anthony and headline the AO Arena himself one day.

Much like Zelfa Barrett, Crolla was quick to point out how much boxing has helped steer his life in the right direction.

“Mad important this, boxing at grassroots,” said Crolla.

“I’m from a club like this myself and it helped me. I was living a bad life and it saved me again,” he continued.

“Even if just one of these kids does something with their lives, it’s still worth the time you put in.”

The excitement now builds towards Saturday night’s huge event at the AO Arena, with all boxing club members being provided with complimentary tickets to support Zelfa and their new friends – Rhiannon, William and Jordan – following tonight’s visit.

A huge thank you to Martin Roberts, Frank McDonagh and the whole Collyhurst & Moston ABC team for being so accommodating – and for the continued dedication you show to improving the lives of the young people you coach. Without passionate volunteers, grassroots boxing simply wouldn’t survive.