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Boxing project to boost young people’s social mobility

Marvin King hopes to guide young people through adversity towards success through a new boxing initiative. Having trodden a difficult path himself, it’s a journey he knows well.

Marvin served years in prison and suffered many knockbacks along the way. On his first day on day release in October 2015, he helped launch the National Alliance of Sport (as we were known then) at the Beyond Sport Summit in London.

He had worked with our Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer, Justin Coleman, while inside HMP Oakwood and Justin recognised Marvin’s hunger and potential not just to turn his life around, but his ability to help others find a positive direction too.

Seven years on, Marvin is now a social worker and CEO of The Ring Boxing Club Foundation in Southwark, south east London, a stone’s throw from where he grew up. He has just launched his own accredited boxing course for local young adults which incorporates not just learning the skills of the sport, but accredited education and life skills too: discipline, social awareness literacy and numeracy, plus the opportunity to be mentored and potentially take follow-on personal training qualifications.

“Our whole focus with the course is social mobility,” says Marvin. “We’re working with people aged 16-18 who want to put in the work and change their social status.

“I have gone through the same situations that they are in now. A young man died recently from the estate and a lot of his friends are coming on the course. These kids are going to see and experience some tough things, coming from where they come from. When they’re here, we’ll show them that things can be better for them; it’ll be hard work but if they really want to change, we can help them achieve it.”

As well as his England Boxing and ABA coaching qualifications, Marvin is also a Level 2 qualified mentor. He was helped in creating his course by The Ring Boxing Club’s head coach Mark Burford and his wife Monica. Marvin’s fitness sessions will see males and females training alongside each other, with further plans afoot for a girls-only programme.

The boxing club was established in 1910 and is situated just off Blackfriars Road. It has become a hub for young people where local ‘postcode rivalries’ can be left at the door.

The experience of leaving prison has taught Marvin that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds need to be shown a potential route to achieving success legitimately, which is what his course is designed to do.

“The amount of money I earn to this day will never compare to what I was earning doing certain things out on the streets,” he admits. “After my release from jail they offered me a job earning £60 per week. In my opinion, that is not the way to offer people a way out of their situation.

“I think it’s important to show young people how to build towards success on their own terms. They’re naturally going to want more than the average 9 to 5. Basically, they need to learn to ‘hustle legally’. They need something to sink their teeth into in order to make something of themselves.

“To do this they have to work with us. Throughout our 10-week course there’s lots of independent learning tasks as well as physical and mental preparation. Being healthy, being on time, physically fit and mentally prepared are all vital. Getting up and doing those 5am jogs are all part of getting in the right mindset. It’s not just about coming in and having a punch-up.”

Throughout his successful reintegration back into society, Marvin has never forgotten the belief shown in him by our Co-Founder Justin – especially the “surreal experience” of leaving jail and heading straight to a major conference to give a speech and help launch what is now the Alliance of Sport!

“Justin encouraged me to write my own mentoring programme. After my release, I found a role in a secondary school in Croydon three days a week as the detention teacher. Later, Mark and Monica gave me a chance here at The Ring. These people have helped me get back on my feet and now I can be that role model figure in young people’s lives.”

Download the syllabus for The Ring Boxing Club Foundation’s free ‘Introduction to Boxing’ course below.

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