An ex-professional boxer is packing a punch with youngsters on a city estate.
Reagan Denton, aged 37, once one of the most promising boxers on the Sheffield scene, mixed with champions Naseem Hamed and Lennox Lewis in their heyday and socialised in America with A-listers including Janet Jackson, Mike Tyson and Mohammed Ali’s family.
He wore a £50,000 watch, drove a Porsche, owned a couple of houses and dreamed of winning his own boxing titles.
The world was at his feet, with some tipping him as ‘the next Naz’.
But a cocktail of ‘fast cars, women and nights out’ were his downfall and he ended up in jail for two-and-a-half years and out of the game.
Instead of languishing behind bars, the boxer used his time to keep fit and on his release worked his way back into the ring - defeating his first opponent in just 77 seconds.
The middleweight boxer said the fight signalled the start of his life taking a new direction. Back on track, he amassed another five wins and was offered a chance at British and European titles, but instead of chasing the dream a chance encounter with a gang of youths outside his home turned a wannabe boxing champion into a champion of the people - a volunteer who now gives up his time to steer children along the right path in life.
Now a reformed character and back on his old stomping ground - Manor estate - Reagan is the driving force behind a community boxing club used by scores of youngsters every night.
The dad-of-two started out in 2013 with a couple of punch bags and second hand gloves after looking out of his window and spotting bored youths hurling dog waste at passing cars.
He confronted the teens and offered to teach them how to box to get them off the streets.
The following night two took him up on the offer and turned up at Fairleigh Social Club, Manor, where Reagan had hung two punch bags from the rafters. The next night there were six teenagers in the makeshift gym and by the end of the week he had 10 punch bags and 20 teenagers.
Now, with 100 regular members, The Hood Boxing Club in Prince Edward School was awarded £7,700 from South Yorkshire fire chiefs to buy equipment and a boxing ring.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said within a few weeks of the gym opening anti-social behaviour on the estate had halved. Station manager Steve Wood said: “This new and exciting project will give young people on the Manor an opportunity to let off steam in this very popular sport.
“We look forward to visiting the club and offering advice and encouragement, which in turn will benefit the whole community and help to reduce anti-social behaviour in the area.”
Club volunteer Mark Wilkinson said: “We are really pleased our project has won this funding.
“Our aim is to become one of the main community hubs for children and young people in the Manor area of Sheffield.
“The project will work in partnership with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and South Yorkshire Police to bring down anti-social behaviour, and for the youngsters it is something to be proud of in their local community.”
Reagan, who grew up in Darnall and was coached by former lightweight pro boxer Glyn Rhodes as a teenager, said he is enjoying helping to steer city youngsters down the right path. He also takes teenagers running around the estate most nights for fitness training and organises regular litter-picks.
The youngsters have also carried out charity work in their community.
Reagan claims giving the youngsters a sense of pride in their community has led to a drop in crime and anti-social behaviour.
“Before The Hood was set up the Number 10 bus stopped running because drivers were sick of the buses getting vandalised. The service is running again now,” he said.
“Because so many young people come to the gym and have carried out litter-picks the streets have never been cleaner. If they see anybody dropping litter they challenge them. They have pride in where they live.
“Bored young people used to smash up the place so it is great to see them using their energy in a more focused way.
“Relations with the police have never been better. A police officer who heard about what we were doing walked across to a group of teenagers in a park and gave them some boxing gloves from his station and from that moment things totally changed. They talk to each other now.
“Not every kid wants to be a boxer, they just want to be part of something positive,” he added.
The Hood has become a community hub, with football training and dance sessions among the activities on offer.
“We just want to help people do something with their lives and with everything I have been through I feel that if I can help these kids through them learning from my mistakes then something positive will have come out of it,” he said.
Reagan is looking for more members of the public to get involved.
Plans include a breakfast club for children and a homework club.
It is hoped businesses will move into the centre and offer training opportunities for young people from the estate.
“I left school not being able to read and write. I want these kids to learn from my mistakes,” added Reagan.
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