Three years ago it was little more than a hopeful dream for a local ex-boxer with a love of the sport and an ambitious drive to provide opportunities for youngsters in the area.
This Saturday (Sep 20) Ockley Amateur Boxing Club will host the Sussex ABA development championships and, once it’s over and he has a chance to relax, Faz Chitima will probably reflect on just how far things have come in a short space of time.
Chitima, Paul Riley and Jake Riley worked together to get the project off the ground, with Paul Riley and Jamie Bristow crucial in finding the premises and stabilising things in time of financial hardship. Now, in a converted space above a technology company and a garage in Ockley Road, Bognor, an amazing transformation has been taking place.
Starting out with just a boxing ring, acquired through Olympic legacy money, and a few pieces of equipment which he’d managed to acquire over the years, Chitima began to work with a handful of enthusiastic volunteers, providing a focal point for local youngsters keen to get fit and develop their boxing skills.
With no major funding or subsidies, other than sponsorship for any shows the club put on and a grant from Sportivate (for the class for the learning disabled which he runs), he has put together a well-equipped boxing gym with everything a youngster needs to develop his skills.
Duncan Wood Allum and Anna Dalton from Sported have also helped with funding.
“It’s hard work,” says Faz “and I won’t pretend it’s easy, not knowing where the money’s going to come from to keep us afloat. The subs from the kids can’t cover everything. It’s worth it, though.”
You only need visit on any of the five weekdays when the gym is open and see the youngsters at work to know why he feels that way.
Chitima is a local lad who boxed until seven or eight years ago. “Should have been a middleweight,” he says “...always ended up fighting guys who were much bigger though. Too lazy for my own good. Should have kept my weight down.”
It’s a lesson he’s determined to pass on to those learning from him. “If they’re in here and working hard like this, they’re not hanging around on street corners or drinking themselves into a coma on a Saturday night or terrorising local communities,” he says.
“These kids spend too much time getting themselves into shape to want to chuck it all away like that.”
At the Sussex ABA championships on Saturday, two lads from Ockley ABC will be among those taking part. Callum Ide, 22, is a middleweight with seven wins from 12 since he started boxing four years ago. He will fight Barry Farthing from Hastings.
Simon Knill started boxing 20 months ago. The 32-year-old bantamweight has won all three of his bouts so far and has no intention of losing his unblemished record against Simon Bayliss from Horsham.
There will be several other bouts featuring boxers from all parts of the county and this will be the first time in several years that amateur boxing will take place without headguards. It’s not a prospect that worries either of the Ockley boxers.
“They’ve decided that headguards actually caused more damage than they prevented,” explained Ide. “They’re no use at all unless they fit perfectly.”
Anyone wishing to see it all for themselves can do so this Saturday at the Jenese Arts Centre, 45 Linden Road, Bognor, PO21 2AS. The programme starts at 2pm and entry is £10 for adults and £5 for juniors.
In addition, anyone can go along to the club on a weekday evening and have a look around.