Young Will Atha, the 17-year-old up and coming light-heavyweight boxer from Chichester’s St Gerards ABC, has been on the trip of a lifetime.
He and his mum Debbie travelled to the USA to visit relatives and combined it with a much-anticipated visit to Freddie Roach’s famous Wildcard boxing gym in Hollywood.
The visit was pre-arranged by their chairman Max Quinnell and his partner Debbie Oliver so they were warmly welcomed on their arrival by Roach himself.
Atha started his visit with a long, hard training session of four hours, which, for a lot of the Wildcards’ more experienced boxers, is the norm.
Roach had some top professional boxing contenders training in the gym - such as five-times world champion Brian Vileria, world champion Ola Afolabi, former Cruiserweight champ Zou Shinning the two-time Olyimpic gold medallist from China, and the UFC champ Georges St Pierre.
It meant Atha was in very esteemed company, especially for a lad of his age, having watched all these stars in action on TV.
The experience blew him away. He soaked it all up and decided he wanted some of the adulation and stardom that brought them to the Wildcard.
Atha travelled to the gym daily for rigorous training sessions with one of Roach’s amateur coaches, who pushed Will to his limits physically - and beyond.
Atha said: “I had four personal sessions with him that lasted for about an hour-and-a-half each time and it was awesome, bearing in mind he is under Freddie’s tutelage, so he must know what he’s doing.
On Atha’s last day, the coach told him and his mum he had potential to be a champion and told Roach he was the best up-and-coming boxer of his age he had trained.
St Gerards matchmaker Gerry Lavelle said: “These comments are a huge accolade for our club and all our other boxers as this reflects in all the hard work by everyone at the gym.
Jon Mills, the coach of the year at the recent Chichester youth sport awards, aka The Terminator, said: “My easy circuits must be having some good effects.”
Head coach Gareth Ferguson added: “We all work together at the club, as a whole team and these comments only confirm that our methods and ways of training our Boxers works.
“We may not have all the equipment all the big gyms have, but we have the right coaches, skills and knowledge to provide the basis for boxing as a whole within the limited gym facilities we operate under, providing the best we can under the circumstances.
* St Gerards’ next big boxing black-tie event is on the last Saturday of January 2014 and preparations are already under way for the third show of its kind.
Anyone wanting to sponsor the show or St Gerards can contact Gerry Lavelle on 01243 251248.