Ready for a comeback

8th December 2000 at 00:00
Amateur Boxing Scotland is picking up the towel and looking to reintroduce the sport in schools. Roddy Mackenzie talks to coach Andy Grant, who fights claims that it is dangerous.

The Scottish Schools' Boxing Championships have not been staged for more than 10 years but there are signs that they could be revived in the near future.

A youth coach has been appointed by the sport's newly formed governing body, Amateur Boxing Scotland (ABS), and he is keen to revive the championships and take the sport back into schools.

Andy Grant, who has worked with the Glasgow University club for the past 48 years, refutes any claim that the sport is dangerous.

"A recent survey looked at the safety level of different sports and gave a rating, with one being the most dangerous sport. Boxing ranked down at 53rd and sports such as football and rugby were a lot higher," he says.

"There was another survey done about smoking and drinking in sport and boxing had the smallest percentage of smokers and drinkers.

"The people that criticise the sport on the grounds of safety are the ones who know the least about it. We have to have a doctor present at each fight. Many of them are reluctant to come along but by the end of the evening some of them are boxing's biggest fans."

Mr Grant points out that boxers who have passed through his hands at Glasgow University have gone on into the teaching profession and he says there have been approaches to go into schools.

"I'd like to get boxing back in the schools and the ultimate would be to get it on the curriculum," Mr Grant continues.

"In the past, I'd say that 99 per cent of those who boxed in schools were club boxers. Mostly, it was the fee-paying schools that boxed. But I'd like to even get the teachers out into clubs and let them get coaching to take back into the schools.

"What we're also working on is a booklet for youngsters on non-contact boxing. It would be similar to judo with its dan system (of proficiency). Youngsters could do the moves in front of a panel and be awarded a first, second or third degree, like judo does with first, second and third dans.

"We hope to get the booklet out within the next year to year-and-a-half and that should also help us get more youngsters involved.

"The good thing about boxing is it gives youngsters self-confidence, not arrogance. I've had boys sent to me by their fathers because they are low on self-esteem and wthin a few weeks they are completely different.

"But there is no danger of them getting into trouble. We tell boys that there is to be no fighting outside the club and to walk away from any fights."

Donald Campbell, the administrator for ABS, underlines that there will be a strong accent on getting schoolchildren involved in the sport. "Boxing has been seen as a sport for the working classes downwards," he says, "but we are looking to boys to come in from all walks of life.

"The British Medical Association has always tried to stop the sport, but how many doctors have actually come along to boxing clubs to see what happens there?

"At my own club in Elgin, there are only five boys who come in and box but we have another 30 who come in to do the training and exercise who have no hope of ever becoming boxers. They come in because they enjoy the sport and it gives them pride and self-respect.

"I have no doubt it is a safe sport.

"Any youngster who boxes has a medical every year and also a medical before every bout. The boxers all wear headguards and bouts are stopped if one of the boxers is 10 points ahead."

Mr Campbell says the coaching structure has to be improved in Scotland and that is something the ABS will be working on.

"In England, every club has a coach that is recognised by the Amateur Boxing Association," he points out. "We are looking to adopt a similar scheme here and that is one of our priorities. I think we lose 100 boxers a year because we do not have enough qualified coaches here.

"The coaches we have in clubs can be excellent and are often father figures for the boys. They give up three or four nights a week plus weekends to coach boys.

"There are a lot of talented boxers still coming through in Scotland.

"We tend to lose boys from the sport at the age of 16 or 17 for obvious reasons, as other sports do," Mr Campbell says. "But a lot of that is also to do with the fact that there are not enough competitions for youngsters to attend compared with what is on offer in England.

"We are looking at that, as we feel the more we can offer them the more we can keep young boys interested."

Meanwhile, the ABS has been rebuilding bridges with the Scottish Association of Boys' Clubs, which will provide financial backing for youngsters to attend championships in England.

"Boxing needs talent coming through if it is to survive," concludes Mr Campbell.

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