A chance to be a contender

6th May 2005 at 01:00
Boxing promoter Frank Warren has set up scholarships for students with sporting or artistic promise. Joseph Lee reports

From Henry Cooper to Mike Tyson, boxing has always been seen as a route out of poverty.

But now young people could benefit without throwing a punch, as Frank Warren, boxing fixer for world champions, is funding sixth-form scholarships to an exclusive private school.

One pupil a year chosen by a panel at Haileybury school in Hertford, will be awarded a Frank Warren sports scholarship or a Susan Warren arts scholarship, named after his wife.

Mr Warren, who is masterminding Olympic silver medallist Amir Khan's expected transition to professional boxing, said: "You could see from the election coverage, education is a problem. There are people who are unhappy with the system and it sometimes holds back kids who have something a little bit special."

He said other sports stars and businessmen should follow suit. "For someone like footballer Wayne Rooney, it would be half a week's wages," he said.

Two of Mr Warren's children are studying at Haileybury and a third finished there three years ago.

His own education was cut short when he left Highbury Grove school, in Islington, north London, where Sir Rhodes Boyson was headmaster, at the age of 15.

"I regret not having taken advantage of my education, not going to university," said the man who once wished he had pursued his interest in art instead of boxing.

"There are kids who maybe aren't getting that chance in life. This could make all the difference." Education was a better escape from poverty than boxing, he said.

The first sports scholar, Ben Thomas, is now nearing the end of his first year. The 16-year-old, who stands 6ft 6in, plays in the second row for elite rugby team Saracens.

Stewart Westley, the master of Haileybury, said Ben's talent and commitment had already made a big difference to the school's rugby team. He said:

"It's not part of our vision to seek to be elitist. We want to provide a quality education, and we would like to make it available to as many people as possible."

Mr Warren was shot by a masked hitman in 1989 and his financial backers abandoned him, leaving him with debts of pound;14 million. His climb back to the top was overshadowed by a prosecution for VAT fraud in 2000, but he was acquitted and awarded costs. In court, Mr Warren said he could not even remember his bank-card PIN. Similarly, he said he does not remember how much the scholarships will cost him. The school's brochure says its boarding fees are pound;19,950 a year.

* joseph.lee@tes.co.uk

For more information on the scholarships, contact the registrar Lizzie Jordan, on 01992 463353

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