Academy throws their first punch!

LONDON S East End has traditionally been a hotbed for boxing, which is why local young hopefuls are being tipped as the region s best hope for Olympic glory. The belief in home-grown talent is why Newham Council - a borough hosting more than 60 per cent o

LONDON'S East End has traditionally been a hotbed for boxing, which is why local young hopefuls are being tipped as the region's best hope for Olympic glory.

The belief in home-grown talent is why Newham Council - a borough hosting more than 60 per cent of the Games - is investing time and money into ensuring young people are given grassroots training, so they might stand toe-to-toe with the best from across the globe.

Through the establishment of Newham Sports Academy, headed by six-time Olympian and 1984 gold medallist javelin ace Tessa Sanderson, the council is identifying and nurturing ability by working with an impressive stock of local boxing clubs.

In 2012, boxing will be staged at the sprawling Excel Exhibition Centre in Custom House, Newham, where the main stadium, Athletes' Village, velodrome and Aquatics Centre will also be located.

There will be 39 medals to be won among 286 athletes - 36 of them women.

The past two Olympics has seen Britain walk away with honours in the sport - in Beijing, a gold and two bronze medals were earned; in 2004 Amir Khan took silver.

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Already there is a string of top flight amateurs from the borough's clubs attached to the Academy and, as the Olympics creep closer, the council is acutely aware of the need to concentrate on those who have the best chance of qualifying for the Games.

They include 20-year-old Dudley O'Shaughnessy, of Custom House, who boxes for West Ham Amateur Boxing Club, is in the GB Development Squad and represented England against the USA at York Hall on November 15.

"With our local clubs, we're delivering on the promise to create a world-class sporting nation," said Sanderson.

"These young boxers will be at the top of their game by 2012 and it is our job to see they get there. Boxing is at the heart of the East End and it is currently our best hope for medals.

"There are so many good clubs here that are doing the borough proud and the Academy serves to further hone their skills and potential. Hopefully their hard work and determination sees them bring home the ultimate in sporting glory."

Any future hopefuls will of course want to follow in the footsteps of Newham's other Olympic pugilists - notably the baby-faced Terry Spinks, who won gold in Melbourne, 1956, and Lennox Lewis, who was crowned Olympic champion at the 1988 Seoul games.

Lewis, who is widely perceived as Canadian, was actually born and grew up in West Ham, while Spinks hailed from nearby Canning Town.

Olympics aside, there is a wealth of renowned boxers who have trained in Newham, including Nigel Benn, Kevin Lear, Graham Earl, Kevin Mitchell, Bradley Stone, Matthew Marsh and Tony Oakey.

In the Olympic host borough's favour, it boasts two of the biggest clubs for boxing and the council is fully supportive of creating local success stories by tapping into these assets.

Newham and West Ham Amateur Boxing Clubs consistently produce national champions and finalists each season across the range of UK competitions.

Last season they produced 18 national finalists across junior competitions - nine winners and nine runners-up.

Other clubs include Peacock Amateur Boxing Club, Canning Town; East Ham Boleyn Amateur Boxing Club and Fight For Peace - a fledgling boxing and martial arts academy in North Woolwich.

Five secondary schools have signed-up to a non-contact form of boxing as part of their curriculum. Others have run after-school clubs as part of the Extended Activities or School Leavers projects.

The Royal Docks School, which is just 100 metres from the Excel complex, has rolled out a scheme in which Year 10 pupils earn themselves qualifications as Amateur Boxing Association of England Tutors as part of a curriculum Sports Leaders Awards.

There is also a new project in the pipeline which will bring together the University of East London and West Ham ABC, which will eventually lead to a University boxing team.

"The clubs in Newham have been successful for numerous years," said Carl Barton, Newham's Boxing Development Officer. "In order for young people to step up to the world stage, the council needs to maintain a level of support for the clubs in the voluntary sector greater than ever before. I really believe they give the borough its best chance of a medallist come 2012.

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