Sunderland's North Star boxing celebrates trio of national-level fighters

A city gym is boxing clever, producing some real rising stars in sport.

Friday, 27th May 2022, 4:38 pm

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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.

North Star Boxing Club champion Layla Straughan 13.

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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.

North Star Boxing Club champions from left Riley Gunn, 12, Layla Straughan 13 and Oliver Potts, 13.

“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.”

After her title win at the schools championships, Layla will go on to fight at international level for the tri-nations contest.

Riley said: "It was my first year competing at the nationals and I felt good about it, I went in there wanting to win. I feel like the coaching we get here is really good and I’m really hoping to go back to nationals next year.”

North Star Boxing Club champion Oliver Potts, 13.
North Star Boxing Club champions Riley Gunn, 12 and Layla Straughan 13.