A young fighter from a college programme to keep teenagers in education by offering them intensive boxing training has returned from representing his country for the first time.
Charlie Delve, who studies at Tamworth amp; Lichfield College's boxing academy, took on two French boxers last weekend as part of the England team in the annual Dual Nation championship.
It is only three years since the 17-year-old middleweight took up boxing, but the intensive training at the academy has helped him to progress quickly.
Alan Keast, Tamworth's head coach, said: "Everyone is impressed by Charlie's development.
"When he joined the academy last year, he was a raw beginner in boxing terms. But he has a very determined attitude: he trains hard and he is now recognised as one of the top young boxers in the country. It really is a fantastic achievement in such a short time."
Mr Keast, a trainer who has worked with fighters such as Amir Khan as well as helping excluded school pupils back into education, said the academy was set up to use sport to encourage teenagers to continue studying while also producing international-class amateur boxers.
Like Charlie, the academy's students combine their training with studying on courses like the Btec national diploma in sport. A typical day will start with a run at 7.30am before they knuckle down to a morning of study. It is followed by a training session at the academy, perhaps working on a particular punch or looking intensively at one aspect of their boxing. Most will also train at a club in the evenings in the traditional way, sparring and skipping. Studying at the academy allows the young boxers to train every day, rather than just a few times a week at a private gym in the evenings, and it means fighters like Charlie can develop more quickly.
Charlie was chosen for the England team competing in France after selectors came to visit the academy and he caught their eye. "I was really shocked when the England coach said they were impressed with me," he said. "My next goal is to win a national title."
His French opponents made his inexperience tell, however, and Charlie was defeated in both of his four-round bouts in the under-19s competition.
The boxing academy is one of only two college-run training facilities for young boxers in England, following on from the example set by East Durham and Houghall Community College, where the boxing development centre produced Tony Jefferies, one of the Great Britain Olympic squad competing in Beijing this summer.
In Tamworth and Lichfield's first year, all the students there earned places in national finals or semi-finals, with Gemma Hampson ranked number two in women's boxing. John Fontaine, the assistant principal, said: "We are delighted the boxing academy is doing so well and that these students have had an opportunity to combine sporting and educational excellence."