SHEFFIELD CITY coach Brendan Warburton received an MBE at Windsor Castle earlier this month, for services to boxing and to the community in Sharrow in Sheffield.

“Flattering really,” Warburton said. “It’s not what I’m in it for, awards and pats on back but it’s nice to be recognised.

“Bob Wright from Parson’s Cross amateur boxing club he got his the day before me, so he briefed me on what to expect!” he added.

Warburton has been coaching in Sheffield for 20 years. “Especially in this area where it is, in Sharrow, it’s quite a rough and tough area in the city of Sheffield,” he said. “Through lockdown I think there were eight shootings round Sharrow.

“I see the gym as an important alternative for young people.

“Through lockdown we were one of the only user groups that could manage to open in some capacity here. There’s a lot of different groups running round this area but we managed to open up. We moved the gym outside,” he explained. “That allowed us to open in some capacity.”

They were getting 400 people in every week. “We’re kind of starting again as an amateur club,” Warburton said. “It’s been a massive blow to us but we’re picking up again now, hopefully we’ve seen the back of it and we’re thinking positive and moving forward. We had a first show in October which was a real success. We’ve got another one in April. We’re back up and running.

“We’re back on it.”

As well as the competitive core of the amateur boxing club, they run development programmes in conjunction with local schools. “We’re all back to normal. The gym’s thriving again. We do a lot of work in schools. Kids that are struggling with their education for whatever reason. We’ve just been awarded some funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner so we’re getting four or five schools a week through the doors, which is really good. That’ll continue for the next year. It’s back to where we were really,” Warburton said. “We work with special needs schools as well as people who are struggling with education. We’ve got an inclusion unit at a local school that bring their kids down and it’s all about just trying lift their self-esteem, and get them back into education is the ultimate goal. I see that as very important.”

“But more important is actually creating these champions and people who are going to become role models for everybody else,” he continued. “Producing good kids, male and female, then they’re your role models and then we have people feeding into that, be it schools, youth groups, whatever. But if you’ve got them role models established then you’ve got your conveyor belt. They’re examples to everybody else that if you do what we’re telling you to do you could become like X, Y or Z.”

The club also has good links to the two universities in the city. “The first university session we had this year, we had 106 people turn up,” Brendan said. “That just adds to the diversity of the gym. It’s so diverse our gym, you’ve got people from all backgrounds, all races and religions and then you’ve got students coming in. I’ve had brain surgeons in here, I’ve had aerospace engineers, nuclear physicists have been in… It inspired some of our amateur boxers to go to university because they didn’t realise you could still box when you went to university.”

The club hopes to continue to expand. “We’re looking to get a lease from the council which will enable us to apply for funding to get a bigger space,” Warburton said. “We need it desperately.”

Their next show is on April 8 at the Sheffield United football ground.

Boxing News was ringside for the England Boxing Youth championships. Read the report here