Liverpool’s Jazza Dickens is training hard for the biggest fight of his life – a shot at the vacant IBF featherweight title – but the chance to help families struggling with addiction means more than any shiny championship belt ever could.
The affable scouser is now in camp for the forthcoming fight with long-time rival Kid Galahad. The pair met as young unbeaten pros in a British title fight in 2013 with the Sheffield man claiming a tenth-round stoppage.
So, revenge as well as world honours are driving factors for Jazza, but despite the life-changing opportunity in the ring, it is the help he can offer others on the other side of the ropes that is the real motivation for the 29year old.
Throughout his childhood, Jazza watched his father Colin struggle with drug addiction. Although they were testing times and the scars remain, father and son managed to maintain their relationship – through snooker! Now the pair have joined forces with Maverick Stars Trust to deliver weekly sessions helping families of addiction re-engage with each other through sport, fun activities, and special guest speakers.
“I’ve suffered the effects of years of substance abuse,” Jazza explains. “I want to show people how me and my Dad built our relationship. It’s one thing being inside addiction, it’s another completely different thing being outside of it. It’s worlds apart. It’s hard to function together when all you know is one way.”
The ‘Jazza in the CommUNITY’ programme will be based at the Derry Mathews Boxing Academy on the edge of Liverpool city centre. Families will be encouraged to attend the free sessions, aimed at providing exactly the kind of support Jazza longed for when he was a child.
“The parent can feel forgiven. The child will always forgive the parent,” Jazza says, “It’s just having the tools to do it and the support. That’s the main thing. Not only does the child need to feel they’re cared for and loved and they can go forward with their life, but the parent can also do that too.”
Happily, Colin is now eleven years in recovery and the bond between father and son is evident as they laugh and chat whilst standing inside one of the boxing rings at the gym located upstairs at Marybone Community Centre
“We used to play snooker one day a week to help build our relationship,” Colin says. “When you come into the real world after you stop using, you’re faced with ‘who am I?’ You’re faced with shame and guilt and lots of sadness at how you behaved. You’re hit with the reality that your son witnessed all this stuff.”
Colin’s story is one of pain and regret, but also love. After several stays in detox units, it was a dramatic turn of events that eventually led to his moment of clarity and the long road to getting clean.
“I’d walked out of six detoxes,” he says with a shrug. “That last time I had a house fire. I was in hospital for three days and I came back home to my house and the windows were burnt out upstairs and I sat there thinking, ‘what’s become of my life?’
“Jazza, he’d moved out by now as I’d moved to another level of addiction. All the boxing England stuff and trophies went up in that fire, didn’t they lad!’” Colin says, turning and smiling at Jazza. “All the boxing stuff you won; it all went in that fire. I can remember crying, thinking, ‘what next? What else am I going to lose?’
Currently closed due to the pandemic, boxing gyms are set to reopen to the public on April 12. The families of addiction initiative - in partnership with Maverick Stars - is ready and waiting to welcome people into a unique support bubble.
“I asked for help and I changed something,” Colin adds. “That’s what’s needed for people that come here. They’re going to be cared for. They’re going to see a child [Jazza] who’s been there, who’s been sad and lonely, who’s focussed and persevered with areas of his life and is now in a position to give back to others. It’s totally unique.”
Jazza leans against the ropes while he listens to his Dad speak. Then, with a smile that could brighten any room, he adds. “There are people desperate for this kind of stuff. There is love out there. It can work. It will work.”
For more information about ‘Jazza in the CommUNITY’ contact us via out website: www.maverickstars.co.uk or drop us a message at either: @maverickstars1 maverickstarstrust