London 2012 Olympic champion Campbell backs work of mixed ability club
August 3, 2021 | by Matt Halfpenny
Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell has visited Yorkshire mixed ability boxing project Unorthobox, which aims to transform lives in its local community.
Unorthobox is a local initiative in Leeds and Bradford that encourages anyone to get involved in non-contact boxing, regardless of their age, ability, or background.
“You don’t need to walk through the doors just because you want to go to the Olympics,” said Campbell, who won gold alongside Anthony Joshua and Nicola Adams at his home Games.
“You walk through the doors, you meet great people, good friends. You learn discipline, how to work hard and real tools that you will use later in life.
“You get fit and you get healthy – there’s a heck of a lot of benefits. As soon as you walk into a boxing gym, everybody is the same and gets treated the same.
“I honestly believe that boxing is probably one of the best (sports at bringing people from different backgrounds together).”
Unorthobox founder Sarah-Jane Murray, was inspired to start the initiative when she struggled to keep up as the only woman in her boxing gym following 10 surgeries to tackle endometriosis.
From 80-year-old men keeping active to young girls learning the sport to get fit and connect with friends, it is now doing some remarkable work to help local people become active and healthy.
Murray said: “It made me think that there must be other people who maybe are not as fit as everyone else in the gym and who might be reluctant to even step through the door for fear of being judged or other reasons acting as barriers.
“I just thought boxing is for everybody and should be for everybody so that’s why I set up Unorthobox.”
Murray explained that there are no limits to the diversity on offer with disabled participants able to mix freely with non-disabled members, and all generations welcome to have a go on the pads.
“I believe that anyone who wants to give it a go should have access to it,” she added.
“Disabled people often go to groups that are just for disabled people and don’t usually get the chance to socialise with non-disabled people, but with our groups they do.
“We have disabled people come in with a family member who is maybe not disabled or a friend.
“Or we have different generations, a grandma comes with her son and a grandson, so it’s massively diverse.”
Unorthobox hopes to expand across the nation and support other clubs to provide sessions like them, as well as turning some of its participants into coaches to see their journey go full circle.
With the 2020 Olympic boxing well underway in Tokyo, there is optimism that a future generation will be inspired to step into the ring.
But Charlie Ford, England Boxing’s Head of Community Development, admits as much as it is great to find the next Campbell or Joshua, the Olympics can drive interest for a completely different type of boxer, as well as dispel any negative stereotypes.
“It’s about really harnessing the power, the inspiration of the Olympic Games and everything that is going off in Tokyo at the moment, to inspire the next generation and to give motivation to anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, background or ability,” he said.
“It’s huge for boxing, because there are some negative perceptions of the sport… it’s a combative sport and by its very nature it involves one person stood in front of another trying to punch them.
“But there is so much more to the sport than that. The health, wellbeing, physical and mental, benefits to the sport are huge.
“We use the sport of boxing to tackle a whole raft of societal issues whether that be anti-social behaviour or crime reduction.”
“We have a saying that when you enter the boxing gym you enter as equals. Through the 980 affiliated clubs that we work with that absolutely is the mantra. It is a sport that knows no boundaries.
“Regardless of your age, gender, ethnicity and your background – that’s all left at the door.”
To find out more about the great work of Unorthobox, check out their website: https://www.unorthobox.co.uk/