Mayor Burnham backs expanding Sting Like A Bee programme

February 20, 2020 | by Matt Halfpenny


The introduction and growth of Maverick Stars Trust’s ‘Sting Like A Bee’ boxing programme has won praise from Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

The project was launched last summer to turn the most at-risk eight to 25-year-olds away from knife crime and anti-social behaviour and instead use boxing to get fit, stay safe and upskill themselves.

It saw funding given to 12 clubs in the greater Manchester area – two from inner city Manchester, plus the 10 boroughs that make up the metropolitan county.

Support was also offered by England Boxing as well as local councils, the police, the fire service and a number of other local organisations.

Since then, additional support has also been offered for the Manchester initiative – such as recruitment company Morson Group offering apprenticeships to some of the clubs and their boxers – as well as Greater Sport, Manchester and Great Places Housing Group.

A total of 160 young people have already been engaged – 20 of whom have signed up for England Boxing level one coaching courses –  and plans are now afoot to operate similar projects on Merseyside and also on the South Coast, with the aim of gradually expanding across the country.

Speaking at a six-month progress update, Burnham, a strong advocate of the power of boxing to change lives, said: “I want to congratulate everyone for getting this initiative to this point and it has my full support.

“It’s my belief that boxing should be better supported and promoted as a sport. Sometimes people in public bodies hold back from it – but that’s not my view at all.

“I think boxing clubs in our communities are doing some of the most amazing work with young people in terms of giving them confidence, belief and discipline – and they’re doing it beneath the radar.

“Boxing clubs and the people who run them are unsung heroes. I have seen the change in people when they go into a club and become part of that environment. You can see the positivity and focus in people and the divides that are being broken down.

“For the first time, this initiative is helping to network the clubs and when you come together, you do more and achieve more.

“With this approach, and drawing in other stakeholders as well, we can find the right club for each young person, rather than them being lost to the sport.

“People often talk about young people as the perpetrators of crime, but they are much more likely to be victims of it.

“Often people are worried and frightened, which can make them carry a knife. This is where this initiative can come in… if there are people carrying knives through fear, then this can give them the confidence not to feel that way.

“I feel this deserves full public support from businesses and the boxing community as well.”

Maverick Stars Trust has secured the backing of several names in the boxing world to help them promote ‘Sting Like A Bee’.

Jamie Moore, Thomas McDonagh, Zelfa Barrett and Pat Barrett, Aqib Fiaz, Danny Wright are among the well-known North West names who have recognised the importance a boxing gym plays in its community.

Moore, who won British and Commonwealth super-welterweight titles and the EBU European super welterweight title, is hoping to soon open an amateur gym in Walkden.

He said: “Boxing gyms for years and years and years have been vital for bringing boxing communities together.

“If you take Moss Side Fire Station ABC for example I have seen first-hand the impact that it has had on the local community. Considering the problems they have had to contend with, and the gang culture, it’s been huge.

“(Coach) Nigel Travis has this line where he says: ‘This is your gang, never mind about what goes on outside these doors.’

“It’s about being relatable and kids can relate to him because he has been there in the past.

“You now get kids who are coming through from the estates around the area, like Conner Tudsbury (now on the GB programme), who all the other kids can now relate to and think ‘he’s turned his life around and made something of his life through hard work and dedication at a boxing gym, so if he can do it, we can do it’.

“Sometimes you see people on TV, maybe in America, where it seems a bit out of reach and doesn’t seem real, but when you can see first-hand what someone has done who’s come from your area it makes it realistic and achievable.”

Brian Gardner, from Eccles Boxing School, has created a youth club centre attached to his gym to help integrate all young people, not just those interested in boxing.

“We have the top floor of a mill that we have raised from nothing and what we are going to do next is build a waiting room area with a pool table, games, darts and DVDs.

“It’s a safe area for people to go to and if they don’t want to box then that’s fine because it’s not for everyone,” he said.

“Others who do want to participate, we can guide into the ways of boxing to keep them fit and off the streets and also help them deal with any problems they may have.

“This project (Sting Like A Bee) is a great idea and other regions are getting involved now, so it should spread right across the country.”

Steve Connellan, from Hamer ABC in Rochdale, brought along one of his boxers, Mahbub Miah, known in the ring as Monir, who has used boxing to help turn away from crime.

The teenager is hoping to compete at Elite level this year, having reach the national semi-finals at his first attempt at Youth level, and he is also on the coaching pathway.

Connellan added: “Monir first came along trying to get away from the crime, started boxing, very successfully, and now has a coaching badge.

“Hopefully, because I’m not going to be here forever, he can take over the role of coach at Hamer and keep going a club that has been around since the 1930s.”

Monir said: “Joining Hamer is the best thing I have done by far. It has changed my life around, having not been on the right path before.

“Once I started boxing, I realised there is more to life and that if you dedicate yourself to something, you can get a lot out of it.

“I always try to push the younger kids a little bit more in the gym and get that bit more out of them.”

You can read more about the Maverick Stars Trust and their project alongside England Boxing here.

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