Volunteers from boxing clubs across London took part in a training course in a bid to improve recognition and reduce stigma of mental health issues in the sport.

The Sam's Listening Mental Health First Aid training course has been launched in memory of Newham amateur boxer and coach, Sam Bezzina, who died in 2020, aged 26.

The initiative aims to ensure London-based boxing clubs improve their understanding of the pressures and signs of mental health-related issues.

A total of 11 volunteers represented nine boxing clubs at the first training course on January 7: Royal Resistance, Islington, Aberfeldy, Dagenham, Dale Youth, Haringey, Metrobox, Fairburn and Hawley ABC.

Volunteer Dan O'Sullivan, from Dagenham Police and Community Boxing Club, said: "I've spent 30 years in the police and then I was a safeguarding leader at a school in the borough so I've worked with quite a lot of people suffering from it.

"But I had very limited training on picking up the signs and sympyoms of mental health in particular.

"The [course] content was really relevant because my club for example on the Heathway in Dagenham has been there for nearly 28 years and we've got 30 volunteer coaches and we get a lot of kids coming into that club and young adults suffering from all kind of problems."

Dan thinks some people take part in sport "to try and alleviate mental health issues".

"We get people coming to us who are really trying to work out their way through life, work out their way through problems and hopefully deal with them.

"It gives them an opportunity to socially interact but also to release those endorphins that people need to release to feel good about themselves.

"Especially with kids... coaches generally only spend an hour or two a week so they don't get long.

"But some of the kids do take to the coaches as kind of mentors and do open up and talk so sometimes we get information and we need to pass it on.

"I think it will save lives, literally save lives, because it isn't just kids that attend the club with mental health [concerns]; we've got coaches themselves sometimes dealing with it or people in their families... we can sometimes help them and point them in the right direction."

Volunteers from the clubs were appointed to attend the training course, delivered by Elite Force Safety, with more in the pipeline for 2023.

The initiative has been funded by the client of Powerday waste management company, Madigan Gill.