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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Bradford boxer Muhammed Ali sets up academy to help champion mental health

Local lad Muhammed Ali, 18, has set up his own boxing academy at Mary Magdalene Church, in Bradford and has urged people to get down and get involved.

The church, which was bought and renovated by Sharat Hussain, is now a community centre named Mary Magdalene CIC and runs a host of programmes and activities to help nurture the youth of today.

The sessions, run by Muhammed, have been going for 3 weeks now and so far signed up over 45 individuals. Demand is so high for these sessions that they are talking about adding an extra day, as people are coming from Baildon and Shipley to attend.

He said: “ We had a bit of fun today. We focused on rallys, we did a bit of footwork with them.

“We tried to make it as fun as possible because they are little ones they wanna enjoy themselves.

“If we put em through hell they ain’t coming back next week, we can’t have that so we made it as fun as possible.

Next time move onto headwork, concrete the first four punches which is jab right and left, left hook and right hook, make sure they’re solid in that.

“Once the foundations right they can step onto anywhere they can go onto any gym and they can show them what they’re made of.”

Currently the sessions are run on Wednesday evenings, from 6:30 to 7:30, with the church being located on Wood Street, Bradford BD8 8HY.

The current cost to attend is £2.50, with Ali saying “we don’t anyone to say they can’t come because of the price.”


Boxer Ali is keen to be seen as a positive role model in the community

Ali is currently studying at Bradford College and is in the process of applying for an apprenticeship in being a mental health ambassador, a role he already takes up at the Youth Centre. He’s also completed his silver DofE award and is currently enrolled on Gold. When he was asked how long he’d been boxing Ali replied: “A couple years, maybe more.”

“My dad used to bring me down to the gym and he used to pad me at home first and ever since then I just fell in love with it.

“I used to box at home with the family the uncles, get my friends into it, we all used to box together it was just something to do.

“It’s helped me out, it’s helped my family out, and this is why I’m here to help the youngsters out.

“I feel that obviously when it comes to mental health, people in order for them to get better they need coping strategies and I think boxing is an amazing coping strategy.”

The 18-year-old also rues the lack of facilities like this when he was growing up and uses this as one of his inspirations for running the classes.

Ali said: “I was on the street, I never had a boxing academy.

“I had to go there with my dad, I had to drive a few miles just to get there.

“It’s an alternative, instead of being out on the streets.  When kids are in the bedroom on the phone, all kids do it, they don’t speak to the family they’re just there home alone isolated.

“Isolation then leads to their mental health deteriorating and then it just goes AWOL from there.

“If they’re out they’re doing boxing they’re keeping active they’re keeping fit physical activity is the best way it’s the best way to keep you steady physically and mentally.

“But this is my local community. I want it to be on the doorstep for them and it is on the doorstep.

“It’s a safe haven for everyone. Now we’ve got the boxing gear, it gives people something to do.

“So, instead of hanging round street corners, come in here and box.

Come in here, get fit and healthy and do something good.”

Muhammed Ali, is given a lot of responsibility throughout the centre including as mental health ambassador mentioned earlier and COVID Officer. In this role, he’s set up the first barber’s in a youth centre as another way to get people talking.

Muhammed Ali coaching his boxing academy sessions

Despite the pressure, Ali, is relishing in his role

“I love it, do you know why?

“When I was a kid playing football in my local park, I used to see drug dealers. I used to look up to those lot, now what am I gonna be when I grow older I’m gonna say wow he made money that day, I wanna be a drug dealer.

“So right now, when I’m walking through my park and kids see me they’re not gonna see a drug dealer. They’re gonna see Muhammed Ali, they’re gonna see the kid that launched the boxing sessions for the youngsters. They’re gonna see a mental health ambassador, they’re gonna see a covid community champion.

“As much as it is a big deal and it is a big responsibility but I’m trying to be a positive role model for everyone especially for the youngsters, so they’ve got someone to look up to.”

More information on the sessions can be found at www.mmchurch.co.uk 

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