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Watch our video and interview with Conner here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PEIC1Ca37A&feature=youtu.be
A TEENAGE boxer said he owes his success to Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) and the Moss Side Fire Station Boxing Club after claiming top prize in the England Boxing Junior ABA championships.
Conner Tudsbury first visited the club in 2008 at the age of just eight after his mum Diane spotted a newspaper article advertising the first ever GMFRS boxing gym – run entirely by local firefighters.
Eight years later, now aged 16, Conner has become the first member of the club to represent the country with England Boxing and is set for knock-out career.
Conner said: “I’ve just won the junior ABA (Amateur Boxing Association) championships where the best people in the region boxed together to see who the best in England is. It’s something I’ve been trying to win for five years so it’s a really big accomplishment for me.”
But it hasn’t been an easy journey for Conner and he believes that if it wasn’t for the club and the firefighters who run it, his life could have gone down a very different path.
“When I was little I was very hyper-active,” he said. “I was always getting into trouble and getting into fights and my mum decided to take me along to the boxing club.
“I’ve been here for eight years and it’s been amazing. I tried other things and they haven’t worked out but boxing is just for me, it’s just my thing.
“Some of the people I know are drinking, smoking and doing illegal stuff and I probably would have ended up doing the same if I didn’t have the boxing club.”
Conner is leaving school this summer and intends to start a boxing course at Bolton College.
His mum Diane said the boxing gym changed her son’s life and that the firefighters who volunteer their time to run the club are inspiring role models for youngsters.
She said: “I was surprised when I first found out that the fire service were running a boxing club, but it seemed perfect.
“It has changed his life. He was very mischievous as a child but he was really strong and really active so I took him along to the gym – they were amazed how fit he was.
“He had a hard time but being at the club really boosted his confidence and he found something he was good at and it’s kept him really focussed.
“The gym has taught him discipline, respect and courage and the firefighters have instilled that in him. He now wants to be a European champion and be in the Olympics, and ultimately become a professional boxer. I’m so proud of him.”
The club was set up by firefighters who converted a disused garage at the station into a gym to try and engage with young people in the Moss Side area, break down barriers in the community, and combat antisocial behaviour.
Firefighters run the club in their own time and aim to encourage the values and attributes of being a firefighter – courage, discipline, dedication, focus and respect for others.
Watch Manager Nigel Travis, who co-founded the club, said: “When Conner first starting coming to the club he was a bit young to start classes because generally kids aren’t strong enough at the age and don’t have the attention span but Conner was surprisingly strong.
“He was having some problems but he found sanctuary at the club and his behaviour starting improving, he started going to school and everything changed for the better.
“We’re really proud of what he’s achieved but whatever happens in the future, what Conner has learned with us will stand him in good stead for the rest of his life.”
Conner added: “Nigel has been a great role model – he’s basically like a father figure to me. He’s always there for me and makes sure I’m doing well at school.
“Winning the championships makes me feel amazing – finally I’m getting somewhere and doing something right.”
For further information about the boxing club and a range of other youth schemes available at GMFRS, please visit http://manchesterfire.gov.uk/community/youth-engagement/