“Boxing keeps us out of trouble; it’s changed my life around,” says Keano, a 26-year-old from Brixton who took up the sport last year.
Ibrahim, also 26, adds: “I took up boxing, and my life’s been on the straight and narrow ever since.
“I box every day, boxing is really good – especially during lockdown because I kept on trying to stay fit.
“It’s good for staying out of the streets. We’ve been in the gym since 12pm, it’s now 5pm – that’s a lot of mischief missed out on.”
READ MORE: South London boxer went from two years out of sport driving lorry for B&Q to becoming Olympian
Sammy (third from right) with Champs Within boxers
The Brixton friends attend Champs Within weekly, a new boxing programme created by boxer and personal trainer, Sammy McKay, 27.
Boxing sessions take place every Tuesday and Thursday from 12pm to 2pm at Miguel’s Boxing Gym, a well-loved sporting facility that’s at the heart of the Brixton community.
Champs Within carries a special purpose for South Londoners, as it’s targeted towards disadvantaged individuals affected by gang violence and acts as a stress relief for people who have been exposed to traumas.
L-R: Brixton boxer and Champs Within founder Sammy McKay, My London’s Ruby and fellow boxers Ibrahim and Keano
” Brixton used to be quite notorious back in the day, with gang violence and gang rivalry – so growing up in Brixton you had to be some sort of character,” Sammy told MyLondon.
“You had to grow up a lot faster than you’re meant to, you get exposed to a lot of stuff and a lot of things. You become an adult much quicker.”
The sessions are free and are open to people not just from Brixton, but surrounding areas such as Clapham – Sammy welcomes anyone who has an interest in boxing and wants to improve their fitness.
After sessions, the group ventures out for a spot of late lunch, where they catch up on life.
From Croydon to Catford, Peckham to Putney, MyLondon wants to make sure you get the latest news, reviews and features from your part of South London.
Now there’s a way you can keep up to date with the areas that matter to you with our FREE email newsletter.
The South London newsletter goes out twice day and sends you the latest stories straight to your inbox.
To sign up to the South London newsletter, simply follow this link and select the newsletter that’s right for you.
And to really customise your news experience on the go, you can download our top-rated free apps for iPhone and Android. Find out more here.
Boxing is a great way to improve mental health and helps to channel anger and overcome past and present demons, which is one of the reasons Sammy started Champs Within.
Sammy adds: “It’s a form of relief and helps you filter your emotions.
“You don’t realise how small your world is, being trapped in South London – you‘re just stuck in this mindset. Gangs and stuff are so insignificant; that world is so insignificant.
“There’s a big world out there and there’s so much to do.
” That’s why I do the projects, to help and give back to the community.
“If I can plant the seed and say there’s more to life – a t least for a few hours, I know they’re not up to no madness, and then the more they do it, the more they start to enjoy it and have goals and have changed.”
‘It’s a form of relief and helps you filter your emotions’
(Image: Box Story)
According to the Mental Health Foundation, Black men are more likely to have experienced a psychotic disorder in the past year than white men and are less likely to report or discuss their mental health problems openly.
There are a number of significant factors for this, including a lack of culturally appropriate mental health services for minority communities, as well as the stigmas attached to Black men and their mental health.
Sammy explains: “A lot of people grow up and are told by their mothers what it’s like to be a man – a man’s supposed to be like this, man up. You’ve got to be a man, you’ve got to be strong.
“There’s no one there to speak to the youths. They just leave people to get on with it.”
After sessions, the group venture out to a local food joint for a spot of late lunch
Being exposed to problematic views on mental health and toxic masculinity can cause a series of suppressed mental health issues that can affect an individual in later life.
Sammy’s upcoming project, Chatter Box, aims to talk about mental health openly while keeping fit through boxing.
The 27-year-old began boxing aged 22 and is applying for his professional boxing licence, but has always been passionate about sport and regularly competed in and won cross-country competitions.
Boxing is a great way to improve mental health, and helps to channel anger and overcome past and current demons
Through boxing, Sammy was able to avoid a path that a lot of Londoners are unfortunately exposed, subjected or coerced into from a young age – crime.
Sammy regularly visits schools in Lambeth to promote boxing and hosts sessions for students.
He also helps out on another programme at Miguel’s called BoxWise, and teaches classes to an under-16 and over-16 group.
To find out more about BoxWise and Sammy’s work, head to their website here.
Do you have an important story we should be covering? Contact Ruby at [email protected]