Knives Down, Gloves Up founder from Upminster aims to get youngsters off streets and into gyms

Knives Down, Gloves Up at their Off the Streets kickoff event. Picture: Paul Kavanagh

Knives Down, Gloves Up at their Off the Streets kickoff event. Picture: Paul Kavanagh - Credit: Archant

The founder of youth organisation, Knives Down, Gloves Up hopes to get youngsters off the streets and into boxing gyms to show them an alternative to gangs.

Knives Down, Gloves Up. Picture: Paul Kavanagh

Knives Down, Gloves Up. Picture: Paul Kavanagh - Credit: Archant

Paul Kavanagh, 44, from Upminister, grew up in Hackney as a troubled child who was constantly getting in fights and got expelled from school.

When he was 20 things got so bad that he didn't even realise he had been stabbed twice with a screwdriver during a fight and he thought he had just been punched.

He credits boxing with helping him turn his life around but it was only when he joined the Royal Marines at 27 that he finally felt like he was getting his life on track.

After serving in Iraq and doing private security overseas, he returned to Upminster and was distressed to hear the stories every day of youngsters being stabbed and caught up in gangs.

Knives Down, Gloves Up founder Paul Kavanagh. Picture: Paul Kavanagh

Knives Down, Gloves Up founder Paul Kavanagh. Picture: Paul Kavanagh - Credit: Archant

He said: "I was wracking my brains and wondering what I could do to help kids in the same way I broke out of that life."

Paul, who owns Elite Commando Fitness gym in Upminster and has trained boxer Paul Upton, thought that boxing might be the key to connecting with youngsters as an early intervention method.

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He started Knives Down, Gloves Up in April, which aims to use boxing as a pathway to education and full-time employment for young people who might otherwise get caught up in gangs.

The response he received to the initial launch of the organisation on Facebook was massive, with the posts reaching more than eight million people.

Paul went down to housing estates in Hackney and spoke to a few young people about boxing as a way to connect with them on their level.

He said: "Boxing is a key to the lock that allows me to get inside their heads."

"Talking to them about boxing is a way for them to open up with me and relax."

After building a rapport with them he asked why they were out on the streets and tried to show them that he could possibly provide a way out.

He said: "The guys that are entrenched in it are just not interested so that's when I realised we need to get at them much earlier on.

"When people talk about early intervention, if someone has dysfunctional parents then you need to get at them when they're a baby practically."

Paul posted a message on Facebook reaching out to people who had been affected by knife crime and he connected with Sharon Kendall, the mother of Jason Isaacs who was fatally stabbed by a gang in Northolt in 2017.

He filmed an interview with Sharon where she told him about the tragic day her son was stabbed with a machete eight times on his way to a party.

Paul has taken the video across the country to give presentations at schools to provide awareness and give advice on the consequences of being involved in gangs and knife-related crime.

On November 2 he started the Off the Streets programme where he partnered with the Grainger Park Boxing Club in Newcastle to give children the opportunity to use the gym for free and 32 came.

Paul is trying to get more local amateur boxing clubs to sign up and give youngsters exclusive access to their clubs for two hours a week, particularly in Upminster and he is also hoping to do boxing workshops in schools soon.

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