By Elliot Foster
Halewood ABC closed its doors 15 years ago.
The proud gym, on Lichfield Road in Liverpool, had been locked up and unused for almost two decades.
The sound of leather on leather was really something to behold when the famous facility reopened last week.
Jon, Sarah –– who won the ABAs in 2012 –– and Jon’s brother Matthew have all been instrumental in the Halewood opening its doors once more and the grand opening was attended by a pair of Commonwealth amateur champions in the shape of Anthony Fowler and Courtney Fry as well as fledgling super-welterweight prospect James Metcalf, his father Shea Neary and undefeated Scouse super-lightweight Ryan Mulcahy.
“Everyone knows my struggles, my past and where I went wrong in not fulfilling my potential as a fighter,” Edge told Instant Boxing at the launch, “so I just wanted to give back to the community, help the kids get off the streets and show them a way so that they don’t go down the same road as I went down.”
“If it wasn’t for Paul, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Jon said, “because when I was younger, he was the person I looked up to.
“He was either in the gym or going to the gym and he has helped me amazingly, giving me the contacts or guiding me in the right way.”
King is well used to introducing youngsters to the merits of boxing –– and he urged those who attended the launch that with the guidance of the coaches the youngsters who go to the gym can one day be turned into champions.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing and there were many trials and tribulations before Edge and co. reached this point, the point where 50-plus local youngsters are attracted on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.
“We faced loads of struggles to get the permission to reopen the gym,” Edge continued, “because the centre [in which the gym is situated] had problems with the previous people who ran the club, so they were hesitant about letting us come back in because they thought they would be faced with the same problems.
“We had to reassure them throughout the process that they could build up a relationship with us and vice versa.
“I’ve done a couple of classes in gyms in the past but I’ve never run a fully functional ABA-affiliated gym and it’s new for me to do this too.
“It’s been a long process but we’re getting there. My philosophy on the gym was never about competing, even though that is a natural next step for the kids, it was always about getting them off the streets and showing them a way, making sure they don’t follow my path, giving them an outlet and helping to try to change their perspective on life.
“As a kid, I was bullied and then I turned into a bully,” Edge said. “My Mum is an alcoholic and my Dad left home at an early age, so I didn’t really find myself until I walked into a gym and started fighting.”
And with that, Edge says that this is his passion, that he wants to use this opportunity to go alongside his ‘Fighting Demons’ documentary –– which will document his struggles and be released in 2017 –– to show the youngsters of today that so much more can be made of themselves.
“I can get these kids young before they get into what I was into before I realised it was time for me to clean up my act,” Edge said, “and maybe help to save their lives and change them for the better.
“I’m like the pied-piper of Halewood and every time one of the kids sees me they ask whether I can open the gym for them. They’re young, they’re hungry and that is the attitude we want.
“I don’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through and that’s why I’m giving something back.”