Join the Sheffield boxing 'family' wanting to give others a fighting chance

They say the best ideas are often drawn up in and around pubs - and for the last three months something special has been happening tucked away behind one Sheffield boozer.

Tuesday, 12th June 2018, 1:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th June 2018, 2:43 pm
Wayne Reed, Rob Riley and Gary Longmore.

Former pro boxer Wayne Reed hung up his gloves following the tragic death of fellow Steel City fighter Scott Westgarth after having been involved in the sport after 29 bouts.

And after saying the sport saved him from going to prison, he said he wanted to give something back to the community to help ave others from falling into trouble.

James Rayworth on the pads with Gary Longmore at Riley's Gym.

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Wayne has teamed up with his former coach PC Gary Longmore, former fighter Robert Riley and his son Richard to open up Riley's Boxing and Fitness Centre, in Grimesthorpe.

The committed team have spent the last three months gutting the site, installing a boxing ring upstairs and adding more weights and equipment.

During a tour of the gym, Wayne admits on at least one occasion that it remains work in progress but while there might the odd lick of paint missing, the enthusiasm of this committed team bounces off the walls of the Upwell Street centre, behind The Ball Inn pub.

Wayne, 30, of Southey Green, said: "I retired from boxing and decided I wanted to come back to give something back to the sport which has given me so much.

"I have been doing the sport for 18 years and I used to get into a bit of trouble and I nearly went to prison. But boxing offered me a focus. It gives you discipline, fundamentals, confidence.

"You learn new skills and if you are a member of a gym, it's like a family. Everybody helps each other and you really feel part of it."

Wayne, Gary, Robert and Richard took on the centre in March after buying some weights from the former owners. Three months on and the gym is open to all - and that is the key message.

The team, assisted by secretary Rachel Flint, want everyone and anyone to use the centre and unite communities across the city and help reduce crime.

Ironically, The Star's visit to the gym was delayed because we had been to the scene of a shooting of a 17-year-old boy on Sheffield's streets.

Robert said: "We are here for the community and we are here for absolutely everyone. Boxing can teach people so much and with the amount of crime across Sheffield at the minute, we want to help keep kids off the streets.

"We just want to help people - that's what we're about. There are a lot of people from different backgrounds and that can lead to tension but we want to unite communities and build trust."

Despite only being open four weeks, the centre is already opening its doors to around 100 boxers per week, while around 25 people have signed up as members for the downstairs weights gym - which Richard works tirelessly to run.

He said: "I will help anyone with anything because I know how important it can be for people."

Boxers will often say that the sense of community among fighters is second to no sport - and there was perhaps no better example of that than at the funeral of Scott Westgarth, who died of a suspected brain injury after winning a fight in Doncaster in February.

And that 'family' ethos is already evident in abundance at Riley's - in fact, most of the work done to transform the gym was done voluntary by those involved in the sport.

Wayne said: "We've had so many people give up their time to help out and cannot thank them enough for that. It goes back to that whole 'family' feel to boxing."