Boxing coach CJ Hussein has been working day and night for the past twenty years in a bid to give the youth of inner city London a fighting chance.
On a cold December night the boxing gym appears to shelter itself under a block of flats while rain pellets the road in front. Getting inside the gym is a mission in itself, after standing under the security camera you eventually get buzzed inside, and even then you have to walk through a tunnel of boxing posters and relics before reaching the door where you are greeted by CJ.
“We’ve just got all that stuff installed, we’ve had a few stabbings just outside that door and we’ve had drug dealers lining up their drugs on the railing.” CJ points to a button under his desk and with an enthusiastic tone and exclaims, “We’ve even got panic buttons as well. Seven actually. Yeah, seven panic buttons hidden all over this gym.”
Anything thats an improvement on the gym excites CJ. He recently applied for passports to be issued to fourteen of his amateur boxers to fight in the south of France. Many of the young fighters in the gym have never been on a family holiday, let alone get on an airplane to go abroad. For CJ the boxing is not the priority, “The main thing is that we are showing these kids that there is a world outside Kentish Town, we want to broaden their horizons.”
CJ has previously helped some of the older boxers get apprenticeships for plumbing and electrical work. The gym also recently received a donation from a charity that works on giving youths from troubled areas a second chance. The new year will see a dozen computers and desks installed so children can get extra help for English and Math, teachers from around the area will volunteer a couple hours every weekend. While the government don’t provide the proper funding for centres like this it is down to people like CJ to make the difference in some of the most troubled areas in London.