World boxing star Carl Frampton MBE has thrown his backing behind a Greater Manchester-wide campaign that will take a unified approach to tackling knife crime.
A total of 12 clubs from the area – two from inner city Manchester, plus the 10 boroughs that make up the metropolitan county – will help to deliver the ‘Sting Like a Bee’ programme developed by the Maverick Stars Trust charity.
They will provide each club with funding and support to turn the most at-risk eight to 25-year-olds away from knife crime and anti-social behaviour and instead use boxing to get fit, stay safe and upskill themselves.
The series of boxing and leadership programmes will be run with the additional backing and support of England Boxing, Safety Guide, Challenge4Change and Street Doctors, as well as local councils, the police and a number of other local organisations.
The initiative was launched at Moss Side Fire Station Boxing Club, who will be one of the participating clubs, alongside the likes of Timperley, Bridgewater Salford, Halliwell Elite, Oldham, Paramount – Stockport, Hamer, Hyde and District, Collyhurst and Moston, Bury and Majestic Boxing Academy – Bolton
“It’s very important to address knife crime as there is a bit of an epidemic going on with it at the minute across not just cities like Manchester, Liverpool and London, but all over the UK,” said Frampton, who was joined in supporting ‘Sting Like a Bee’ by trainer Jamie Moore and world professional title hopeful Chantelle Cameron.
“Boxing clubs being in the areas that they are and as the hub of many of their local communities can have a massive impact in speaking to the kids affected, helping them wise up and then giving them viable alternatives.
“It might seem like carrying a knife around is the cool thing to do because other people are doing it, but boxing clubs can spell out just how dangerous it is.”
Those present at the launch heard from Anfield ABC coach who has driven a ground-breaking anti-knife crime project in nearby Liverpool called ‘Real Men Don’t Carry Knives’.
He explained that the need to take action across the country was vital as there were 40,829 recorded incidents of knife crime in 2018 – 110 per day – while, on average, one person each day has died of a knife-related incident since the beginning of 2019.
Also in attendance was former Olympic medallist and world champion Robin Reid, who is now working with Safety Guide, a foundation helping to prevent bullying and knife crime among young people.
He said: “There weren’t kids carrying knives around when I was younger, but now kids as young as 10 can be carrying them and I’ve heard about kids on the news who aren’t even teenagers yet who have been stabbed.
“It’s about changing the mindset that carrying a knife around should not be like carrying around a mobile – and that split decision to pull a knife out of your pocket can change the lives of lots of people, not just the attacker and the victim.”
The event attracted considerably media interest both locally and nationally, with Sky Sports News, BBC Radio Five Live, The Daily Star, talkSport and BBC Radio Manchester coming along.
Among those being interviewed were Maverick Stars Ambassador Conner Tudsbury, a Moss Side Fire boxer who has designs on winning a place on the GB Performance Programme.
“I struggled at schools with my maths and English and I could have gone down the other route of carrying knives and stuff like that, but I’m glad I’ve found something that I’m good at, which is the boxing,” he said.
“I’ve got friends who were kicked out of school for carrying knives and friends who have carried knives to make them feel safe, but I’ve also got friends who have gone along to the gym to box and now they think ‘what was I doing, how could I be so daft?’ and now know they don’t need knives.”
‘Sting Like a Bee’ has won wide support from those clubs who will be leading the programmes, with Paramount – Stockport Head Coach Paul Slamon saying: “It’s a fantastic project for us all to be involved with.
“As well as being a coach in Stockport, I’m also a police officer where I work with young people and see at first hand the issues we are dealing with when it comes to knife crime.
“This is a great way of getting those young people off the streets and into something positive. The partnership with other organisations means we will be working with the right group of people and the funding means we will be able to put sessions on free of charge for those who would not have the money to pay for them.”
Charlotte Gilley, founder of the Maverick Stars Trust, has been greatly encouraged by response to ‘Sting Like A Bee’, which is expected to be followed up in the future with a Greater Manchester Box Cup – planned for Spring 2020 – to greater cement the links between the clubs.
“At the moment everyone is doing parts of it (tackling knife crime) well, with the councils, the police, the youth services and the clubs all doing their bit,” she said.
“But what this programme is doing is pulling everyone together and saying ‘how can we do this as a whole, in a unified way’, rather than doing things separately, so we can fill in any gaps in knowledge.
“It’s been superb to see the interest in the project. All the volunteers are amateur coaches, but they’re all prepared to give up their time for this, as they already do at their own clubs.
“It’s also fantastic to get such support from amateur and professional boxers past and present which has really helped lift the profile of this campaign. They are amazing role models and people are a lot more likely to listen to what they have to say than a schoolteacher or policeman.”
Part of England Boxing’s 2017 to 2021 strategy is to strengthen clubs, unlock potential and invest in the boxing community.
Head of Community Development, Ron Tulley, said: “Maverick Stars Trust has the foresight to see that by choosing to invest in boxing clubs they are also investing in an education, health and anti-crime agenda.”