England Boxing National Schools Championships 2019 – Pinewood’s 22, led by ‘Superman’ RJ, going for glory

May 10, 2019 | by Matt Halfpenny


Pinewood Starr ABC believe they may have set a new record for the number of boxers who have made it through to the quarter-finals or better of the England Boxing National Schools Championships, with no less than 22 boxers into the final eight of their respective categories.

The Berkshire-based club have always been renowned for producing high-quality young boxers, but are delighted to have so far lost only one of the boxers they entered into the tournament, with all 10 boxers who boxed in the pre quarter-finals coming through their bouts.

It means no less than 19 of their number will compete for the right to contest semi-finals at the K2 in Crawley on Saturday 18th May, with the finals to follow 24 hours later.

They will take on Eastern Counties boxers at Sudbury this weekend in a host of weights at Cadet, Class A and Class B level.

Three more Pinewood boxers have already made it through to the semi-final stage.

“As a club, the team spirit this year is electric,” said club coach Roger Draper. “The support is fantastic, with the boys’ coaches and parents really pulling together.

“We’re looking to break our record of eight and possibly secure the record for most ever Schools champions in a single championship. The boys have set their goals high and hope to achieve their dreams.”

The Pinewood boxers are: Jake Jenkins (Cadet 30kg), Emal Hamdan (Cadet 34kg), John Valler (Cadet 42kg), Mason Butcher (Cadet 44kg), Joey Saunders (Class A 30kg), Alfie Tierney (Class A 38.5kg), Francie Doherty (Class A 40kg), Micheal Smith (Class A 41.5kg), Tim O’Leary (Class A 43kg), Joe Cooper (Class A 48kg), Samir Hamdan (Class A 52kg), Felix Fitzharris (Class B 34kg), Khurram Alishan (Class B 35.5 kg), Johnny Fitzharris (Class B 37kg, through to finals draw), Paddy Ward (Class B 38.5kg), Chase Loveridge (Class B 40kg), Caleb Price (Class B 46kg), Mason Orchard (Class B 48kg),

Harry-James Wilson (Class B 56kg, through to finals draw), Tony Scott (Class B 59kg), Lias Butcher (Class B 65kg) and RJ Draper (Class B 68kg, through to finals draw).

One of the Pinewood number who has done particularly well to put himself in contention for national honours is Draper’s son RJ.

An England Boxing National Schools champion in May 2017, he suffered a life-threatening accident in November of that year, three days before a selection camp in Sheffield for the European Schools Championships.

The youngster was hit by a van driving at 50mph and was put into intensive care, where we had to undergo surgery on both legs.

A CT scan also found a tumour that was thought to be cancerous, meaning he was then admitted to the Royal Marsden Hospital, where thankfully he was given the all clear.

However, he remained bedridden for two months after his accident and also spent a spell in a wheelchair before gradually starting to walk again.

Nobody thought he would box again, but RJ has defied the odds to return to Pinewood, lose 3½ stones and begin to compete once more.

After missing last year’s Schools Championships, he now hopes to land his second title in Crawley.

Draper senior added: “RJ is a true inspiration to any young teenager who has suffered injuries to never to give up on your dreams. Through hard work and dedication, anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

“RJ was nicknamed ‘Superman’ in the Royal St George’s Hospital London for his remarkable recovery and he has been a huge inspiration to his club mates who visited him in hospital.”