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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 16:48 GMT
Boxing 'knocks spots off' rivals
By Matt Slater

Amir Khan
Amir Khan's heroics in Athens gave amateur boxing a major lift
Amateur Boxing Association of England boss Paul King says the sport is "on the up" and will deliver more Olympic medals than athletics and swimming.

The amateur fight game has never been healthier in terms of funding, participation and global success.

"We were the only sport to exceed expectations and beat the Aussies at the Commonwealths," King said.

"We knock spots off athletics and swimming. I bet we win more medals in Beijing than they do combined."

King was speaking at the launch of an initiative to reintroduce boxing into schools, almost 50 years after the sport was removed from PE classes because of safety concerns.

Cuba and Russia are the strongest right now but we're not far behind

George Groves
ABA middleweight champion
Seven schools in the London borough of Bromley have signed up with Boxing4Schools, a training scheme set up by ex-professional Wayne Llewelyn, to run after-hours boxing clubs.

King believes schemes like these are the product of the major strides the ABA and amateur boxing in general has made in recent years.

In the last year, the ABA has restructured, brought in its first major sponsor, set up a nationwide database, earned extra funding from Sport England, enjoyed unprecedented success on the international stage and seen the number of clubs increase by 12% to 691.

The Liverpudlian chief executive is also confident the ABA can meet its target of lifting boxing into the country's top 10 sports in terms of participation. A recent survey recently listed boxing as the 13th biggest of the mainstream, organised sports.

606 VIEW
The kids are fighting and the kids are alright

Matt Slater
King accepts that the catalyst for this upswing in fortunes was probably Amir Khan's silver medal at the Sydney Olympics but says none of the advances would have been possible if the governing body had not raised its game as well.

"The sport has been under-resourced for years but we've got our house in order and the case we are making now is compelling," said King.

"Boxing is on the up. We are reaching kids that aren't going to the local rowing and sailing clubs, and we're giving them options.

"And look at the core PE objectives in the national curriculum - cardio-vascular fitness, balance, co-ordination. That's not even mentioning the discipline and self-confidence that boxing gives young people.

"This schools scheme says it all. It's about choice. And it's not just schools and PE teachers who are getting what we're about. We have a great relationship with the services and the police too. We are engaging with all these people and the clubs are booming.

England's Frankie Gavin with his Commonwealth gold
British boxers won six of the 11 Commonwealth golds on offer
"And in terms have competition, things have never been brighter. We have some of the best cadets (under-17s) in the world and a great crop at senior level too.

"Look at the sporting landscape in this country: where are our the world icons? They're in boxing, that's where!"

George Groves, one of those highly-rated British youngsters, was also at the Bromley launch and he echoed King's optimism about the health of the amateur boxing game.

The 18-year-old Londoner, a multiple age-group national champion at middleweight, has witnessed "dramatic improvements" even in the short time he has been involved with the sport. He also confirmed King's predictions of Olympic success in 2008 and 2012.

"Cuba and Russia are the strongest right now but we're not far behind. There are probably five or six countries in a group just behind those two and we're definitely in there and getting better all the time," said Groves, who

"We've got two cadet world champions and were unlucky not to have more.

"I'm definitely hoping to qualify for Beijing. I'll be 20 then, which is pretty young, but I think good enough to medal. And then when London comes around I'll be in great shape to win it.

"I can't think of anything else in sport that could be better than winning an Olympic gold in your home town."

606 DEBATE: Will boxing claim more GB medals than athletics and swimming in Beijing?



SEE ALSO
Schools bring back boxing lessons
30 Jan 07 |  Education
British boxers strike golden form
25 Mar 06 |  Commonwealth Games


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