Mark Reynolds, of Rawthorpe Amateur Boxing Club, is concerned about the level of knife crime that is rising across the UK.
The Milnsbridge-based boxing coach is using the power of boxing to keep young people on the right track.
Over the course of the last 12 months there have been 27 homicides in London due to knife crime. Closer to home there were 1,000 children in West Yorkshire convicted or cautioned for knife crimes and incidents involving blades in the past decade.
Ministry of Justice figures for West Yorkshire Police show young people were involved in 1,290 of the 7,390 cases resulting in cautions or convictions between July 2010 and June 2021 – making up 17% of those punished. 586 of those punishments were handed to children aged between just 10 and 15.
Mark, who opened the RABC in 1998, wants to help tackle knife crime in Huddersfield and deter young people from carrying blades.
He said: “At the moment we are in a really bad place where young people are struggling to cope coming out of the pandemic.
“We are seeing more young people fall down the wrong path and the pandemic and the mental stresses have had a lot to do with that. Kids have not had structured learning in school because they haven’t been able to get into classrooms and so on.
“I am working on a project right now with how to tackle knife crime and as soon as we can reveal it, we will, but I’m very excited about it.”
Through the power of his club and his way of teaching the sport, Mark uses his skills to teach young adults about life. He provides a vital community service which has the power to change lives.
“Boxing is a brilliant tool, it’s the most disciplined sport in the world,” said Mark. “I am very proud of what we do as a club.
“I go into schools and try to make a positive impact on the kids. I don’t act or speak like their teacher. I run sessions in a way where the kids are having fun but are also learning about knife crime because of how I talk to them about it.
“I work with around 1,000 kids every month, even if 10% get something from it, learn something new or think about a choice they’ve made and the consequence of that then I’m doing my job.
“Many clubs want to create boxing champions and that’s all they are bothered about. That’s great and good luck to them but it’s not my style.
“I am not bothered if one of our kids goes on to become a world champion. What I want to create is a whole community of champions and create that sense of togetherness and belonging. That’s what gives me a buzz, to think I’ve helped a young person make a good choice in their life.”
The club has a range of sessions for all ages with the youngest participants being three years old and the oldest being 79.
Due to the pandemic, the boxing club was struggling and Mark wanted to pay tribute to its volunteers for helping keep the club alive.
He said: “Last year was definitely a struggle. We are in a superb facility now at Bridge Croft Mills in Tanyard Road, Milnsbridge, which has three floors, we have got the heating sorted too and the three-year planned refurbishment is complete.
“However when the lockdowns came we had to shut down and we fell into the gym category and we were one of the industries that was closed for the longest.
“We could have gone out of business for sure, but our amazing band of volunteers rallied round and helped to make the best of things and luckily because of their time, dedication and hard work it means we are still here today to help people through the power of boxing.”
Photos of boxing sessions at RABC.