WORLD champion contender Kell Brook today slammed the metal thieves who trashed the gym where he learned his trade, forcing it to close.
The gym, which was broken into three times in a week, is the latest victim of a surge in metal thefts across the county.
Thieves struck at Manor Boxing Club in Sheffield ripping down the ceiling and smashing toilets and showers to steal copper piping.
Undefeated welterweight Kell, training for a fight in front of a 10,000-strong crowd in Sheffield on Saturday, today branded the break-in a ‘disgrace’.
South Yorkshire Police said metal theft is among the county’s commonest crimes, with 316 offences recorded last month alone - the equivalent of 12 a day.
At its peak 541 scrap metal offences were recorded in South Yorkshire last September.
Now the gym on Prince of Wales Road has been forced to close on safety grounds until repairs - which will cost more than £4,000 - are carried out.
Kell, speaking ahead of his fight with Matthew Hatton at Sheffield Arena, said: “It’s a disgrace that places like this, where I have trained, are being raided.
“Gyms like this are aimed at getting kids off the streets and setting a good example to them, and then you get thieves coming along and destroying all that.”
Steve Barnes, aged 56, who has run the gym for the last 12 years and travelled around the country with Kell before he turned pro, said he was sickened by the break-in.
The raiders stole the boiler, stripped out the pipes and took boxing equipment, including a portable ring and punchbags.
“Whoever did this was determined to get in and knew exactly what they were coming for - a bit of metal to sell on for just a few pounds,” said Steve.
“Yet to us the damage is massive and has meant me having to turn away kids on health and safety grounds.
“The first time they tried to steal the boiler but just loosened the pipes and it was boarded up. But they came a second time and smashed their way through the wood. The third time they came in and destroyed the place - ripping out toilets, showers and pulling the ceiling down to get to the pipes.
“When I look around at all the mess it makes me think I should just walk away.
“But there is so little for kids to do - the gym is about all there is.”
Steve, whose son Steven was a four-time national boxing champion, is calling for the Government to step up the fight against metal thieves.
“It is about time the Government stopped allowing cash payments for scrap - it seems anyone can roll up off the street with metal and weigh it in without any questions asked,” he said.
Chief Superintendent Bill Hotchkiss, responsible for overseeing the police response to metal theft in South Yorkshire, said extra patrols will be carried out on the Manor estate.
“We realise how significant an impact this kind of offence can have, and we really feel for the victim,” he said.
“Everybody knows when you are running a voluntary organisation getting funding is difficult, but in this financial climate it is even worse and we recognise that.”
Martin Crookes, head of facilities at SIV, which manages the club on behalf of Sheffield Council, said: “It is disappointing to hear about another break in and the damage caused.
“Over the years we have carried out numerous jobs to try and improve the security of the centre, but it is in a vulnerable location and has constraints due to its age.
“We are looking at further preventative measures.”