Club Case Study: Downend ABC
June 28, 2022 | by Matt Halfpenny
Downend Amateur Boxing Club started out in 1992 in the form of a boys’ club premises… with four pairs of boxing gloves and three punch bags.
On the border between Bristol and South Gloucestershire, it’s a club that, from the early days, has always had a great following.
Incredibly, the club have moved premises some 24 times since its inauguration, but has been able to reach young people from countless communities as a result.
Head Coach Craig Turner said: “In the early days, we would literally finish training at one place on Friday and commence training at another on Monday. This was due to a lack of community facilities in the area and high level of development and regeneration of older buildings.
“But after becoming part of a community Sports Network in 2009, which incorporated local football and cricket clubs, a local authority project took place to provide local playing fields with changing room facilities that would incorporate a boxing gym and function room.”
The project, and indeed the club, was threatened in 2007 when Craig, on duty with Avon and Somerset Police, fell in an abandoned building, breaking his neck in two places
It was some time before the full extent of the injury was known but thankfully after surgery a full recovery was made, and the club was able to continue.
Watch how Downend rescue a derelict community centre
The boxing club was the driving force behind the project and the new facility was opened in 2011, But the thriving club quickly grew out of the premises and were forced to find an alternative base.
Happily, the facility is still very much in use for local sport and it was during their time there at Downend secured their first national champion and England representative, Adelaide Baker.
During the club’s nomadic history, there was a brief stop at a community centre on a large council estate in Bristol. The Oldbury Court Community Centre was built in the early 1950s by the community and had fallen into desperate disrepair.
Most people advised the club that the building was a lost cause due to a large asbestos roof and significant weather and vandalism damage. However, over a period of two years, and thanks to a wonderful effort from volunteers and local businesses, the site was secured and no longer the scene of anti-social behaviour.
Special mention must be made of Barum Boxing Club coach, Gavin Lane, who twice made 197-mile round trip from Devon to put a new roof on the building free of charge.
Sadly, whilst awaiting a funding decision, the building was subject to an arson attack that rendered it unsalvageable.
While the club continued to commit to community projects, it also secured a further two national champions and England representatives at this time, alongside attending international Box Cups and maintaining a busy club show diary.
It was then that Bristol City Council officials and mayor Marvin Reese, himself a former boxer, made provision at premises that just become available for the club at the Harry Crook centre named after former Bristol Lord Mayor, philanthropist, and founder of the of the Clean Easy brush company.
Built in 1972, the centre was in dire need of regeneration. However, after a quick lick of paint, Downend played host to Saint Mary’s Boxing club, County Wexford, less than two weeks after moving in.
Watch the club appear on Let’s Get Gold (starts at 18:14)
In the six years that followed, Downend hosted well over 20 tournaments and England squads and it is an approved England Boxing educational centre.
The club has also headed up the Bristol – County Cork boxing exchange that it is hoped will continue following the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Craig’s wife, Jo who is an official and coach, had the idea of launching a tournament dedicated to school age boxer, which led to the formation of the Bristol Box Cup tournament.
The idea was to offer a large, international-style event for entry level young people that would offer a celebration of school age boxing at what is a pivotal age, giving them a sense of the big occasion going forward in their careers.
Launched in 2014, it proved to be an immediate success and Jo said: “We didn’t really know what to expect but the initial take up was wonderful.
“It has year on year grown in popularity and whilst with all things of this nature it is intensely hard work, it is always worth it.
“We always said that we would continue as long as the clubs supported it and I’m delighted to say that after a two-year break due to the Pandemic, the 2022 event was a huge success.”
Downend continue to produce high quality boxers and engage in projects with their local community.