June 4, 2021 8.07 am This story is over 13 months old

Lincoln fighter tackling youth crime with boxing and kickboxing

Giving young people more focus through sport

A Lincoln fighter who grew up in the St Giles area of the city is urging young people to ‘put the knives down and put the gloves on’ and take up kickboxing and boxing after the recent tragic murder of Sam Davies.

Five men were charged and will return to court later this month over the murder of 23-year-old Lincoln man Sam Davies, who was stabbed to death in Coleridge Gardens in the St Giles area of the city on Thursday, May 27.

Karl, 30, is an amateur fighter who has been teaching boxing and kickboxing since 2010 and is determined to help get young people off the streets and into sport at Lincoln Fight Factory.

He told The Lincolnite that when Shaun Rossington was killed in Lincoln in 2010 he was teaching a kickboxing class.

He said some youngsters, who used to hang round with a few of the lads that were sent down for the murder, fortunately attended his class and avoided staying with the wrong crowd.

Karl competed in 141 kickboxing fights and hopes to return to the ring later this year, only this time as a boxer. | Photo: Picman

Karl, whose full-time job is in a pet shop in the St Giles area, is now launching more classes at Lincoln Fight Factory to help tackle crime and obesity in the city, alongside the gym’s owner Shawn Burton.

Karl said: “I grew up in St Giles and it was rough back in the day. My mum put me into kickboxing when I was four-years-old due to how the area was and so I could learn self-defence.

“Kickboxing kept me safe and and away from the lure of the wrong crowd. As I got older I started competing so from that it wasn’t just to meet people, I also got to travel abroad and fight, and make memories and friends from around the world.

“As I’ve grown older, I’ve lost friends due to drugs and crime and seen others end up in the wrong crowd, it’s horrible to see for family and friends. The area was rough when I was born, but started to get better in my teenage years, but now it is at a turning point that could go either way.

“It is a worry for the younger generation and whenever I hear tragic stories it brings things to the fore and makes me want to do something about it even more.

“I am helping Shawn with a kids’ beginners boxing class, for ages 4-14, and when I look at them I think what if they weren’t here and were on the streets and in the wrong crowd.

“Looking back to that night (when Shaun Rossington was murdered) and also with the Coleridge Gardens murder in mind if the classes are something we can carry forward to help the youths of Lincoln it will give them something to focus on.

“I also look at (professional boxer) Anthony Joshua who was in a bad way in his teen years and how he has changed his life, so if he can others can too and I want to help.”

The new initiative will be included in the beginners’ classes and it is part of a national programme called Gloves Up Knives Down. The campaign was launched in 2019 as a social enterprise “committed to supporting young people living in communities affected by knife crime, providing access to boxing training to help them lead fulfilling and healthy lives away from crime”.

The classes will take place at Lincoln Fight Factory.

The classes at Lincoln Fight Factory, which is located at Vulcan Park on George Street, are held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and priced at £4 per child and £5 for adults. Advanced booking isn’t required and you can just turn up at the gym and any enquires can be sent via Facebook or emailed to [email protected].

Karl is also aiming to apply for funding in the future to help make the classes more accessible to any that are unable to afford it.

Shawn Burton, who set up Lincoln Fight Factory 10 years ago, added: “It’s a great initiative Karl has set up and just goes to show the type of person he is, very proud of his city and keen on sport.

“With the right education and guidance these kids still have time to turn their lives around. The Knives Down, Gloves Up idea has been around for years, but until it hits closer to home it’s not something we really think about. If The Lincoln Fight Factory can change just one life around then it’s a great success.

“One of the big things we do is train on a Friday night, a night when a lot of teenagers would be roaming the estates, being in the gym means they are safe and away from trouble.”

Lincoln Fight Factory has over 800 members, a 6,600 square foot training area, professional boxing ring, 30 punch bags and a fully-fitted commercial gym, as well as being the home to multiple World and European champion kickboxers.

Karl when he met professional boxer Frank Bruno (left) at an event at Lincoln Fight Factory, along with his friends at the gym (right).

Karl reiterated that the classes are about teaching discipline, respect, focus and reaching for better goals. He understands there may be concerns as one punch can kill, but he said the classes are not about violence at all and are taught in a controlled environment to teach discipline and self-defence.

He added: “I have seen boxing and other sports help people who have been on the wrong path or not had anything to focus on, before finding something in boxing. It isn’t just about bringing crime down, but also tackling obesity.”

As well as teaching Karl, who has competed in 141 kickboxing fights from the age of five upwards, will transition to boxing for a comeback in the ring later this year.

Former Lincoln boxer and referee Andrew Wilkinson has been walking the streets of the Ermine east area in the evenings recently to talk to people, get them off the streets and into sport as there is nothing on the estate for them at the moment.

He hopes to open a free boxing gym in the local community centre for all ages groups in the future, while a football session on the pitches on Sudbrooke Drive will be held at 6pm on Monday, June 7.

Other sports including rugby help teach young people valuable lessons. Adam Kelleher from Lincoln Rugby Club, which is located on Longdales Road in Nettleham, said: “The club offers opportunities for all ages and genders and the only equipment you need is a gumshield. It teaches discipline, sportsmanship, teamwork, respect and enjoyment. It’s not just a club or a team, but a family too.”