Established in 2016, North Star ABC in King’s Road, Southwick, is fairly new, compared to the gyms that have been going for decades, but it’s got off to a flying start, producing young fighters skilled enough to fight at national level.
Coach Danny Hopper recently travelled down to Oxfordshire with students who made it through to the prestigious England Boxing National Schools Championships, an annual contest which gives many young fighters their first taste of competition on a national stage, which has previously seen title wins from successful Sunderland fighters including professional boxer Josh Kelly and Olympic boxing brothers Pat and Luke McCormack.
A trio of students from the club are now following in their footsteps with Oliver Potts, 14, who attends Academy 360, picking up a bronze medal for his age category; Riley Gunn, 12, who attends Red House Academy picking up gold for his cadet category and Layla Straughan, 13, from South Hylton, winning the gold gloves and medal for the second year running.
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Danny started the club in a function room at the old North Star pub and when the pub closed took on the remainder of the site where he runs both adult and children’s classes five nights a week.
"Some gyms have been going 60/70 years, so for us to be only six years old and competing at that level is great,” he said. “Boxing is a great sport for kids, it should be in all the schools.
"I’m really proud of all the fighters. We don’t say male or female boxers, we call them all fighters. But for Layla it’s great that she can compete at this level, women weren’t even allowed in boxing gyms years ago. She fought an unbeaten girl from Essex and she was class.”
Layla’s idol is undisputed lightweight champion boxer Katie Taylor and the Christ’s College student says she has her sights firmly set on fighting professionally.
“I really admire Katie, she’s fast and strong,” said Layla. “It’s really inspiring to see other women in the sport and this is definitely what I want to do with my life, I love being in the ring.”