Amateur Boxing – Changing Lives

by Fran on February 22, 2013

Amateur Boxing Team L1 Youth Group

This post is quite different to the stuff that I usually produce. Usually I stick to talking the practicalities of fighting, both in the amateur boxing ring and in the professional code. From video skills presentations to fight analysis articles, from book reviews to descriptions of the equipment that we use.

But I came across something just recently that really made me sit up and take notice. Something that made me grateful to be involved in the sport of amateur boxing, something more importantly that made me believe that amateur boxing and those involved in it can genuinely make a big difference in the well-being of our next generation.

In this piece I am going to tell you about a man who was the catalyst for making real change in his community. This is someone who saw the writing on the wall and set out to make the difference. He could have waited for the authorities to convene 15 committees to see whether they could take an action to see what action could be taken.

Waiting for the authorities to act in a swift and meaningful way would have been easy, but ultimately fruitless. So rather than just ‘talk a good fight’, this man took the fight to the problem and has ‘cut the ring off’ on this problem in the most heart-lifting way. In this article I am going to give you the opportunity to understand and if possible help the very worthy cause that is the L1 Youth Group.

Liverpool When Times are Tough

We are in very tough economic times, as bad as any in living memory. The global markets limp along in negative growth, inflation is on steroids and unemployment continues to make it’s unwelcome presence felt.

Invariably in such times, the more deprived inner-city neighbourhoods feel the damaging effects far more keenly than the wider community. Usually during the administration of cutbacks, it is true to say that the very few facilities that cater to the needs of young people in these deprived areas are the very first in the firing line. Liverpool is no different.  Government are slow to help, so it’s up to people in the community to ‘go on the front foot’ and make a difference themselves.

One such person is Peter McLean who, with the able help of Danny Costello and Tom Murphy, have built the beginnings of what I am sure will be an amazing, dare I say it life-changing resource for the youngsters of Liverpool. I want to tell you about the work of Peter, Danny and Tom purely because it shows what can be achieved with amateur boxing and the right role models. I also want to give you the opportunity to show your support.

Enough is Enough!

The L1 Youth Group was born in April 2012. It came about as a result of Peter’s desire to do something about the high level of serious crime in his community, crime in which many of the local youngsters had been involved in and affected by.

The situation came to a head when Peter’s young son and his friends were shot at in a case of mistaken identity, with one of them being seriously injured. Peter contacted his fellow resident Danny Costello (a former 3 time Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) champion, there are not many of them about) and resolved to do something about the worsening situation.

The pair started up amateur boxing and fitness sessions in Peter’s back yard, with maybe 5 or 6 youngsters. As word spread, more and more youngsters were turning up at Peter’s ready to take advantage of the lessons on offer. Peter and Danny quickly realized, in a Roy Steiger Jaws-type moment, that they were going to need a bigger space.

Peter got in touch with the local primary school, St. Vincent de Paul, to see if he could hold sessions in the playground. In a demonstration of real community-minded commitment the school agreed.

What started out as 5-6 lads in a back yard had turned into 10-15 kids, then 20-30 kids and so on as the weeks went by. Again, being a victim of their own success, Peter and Danny realised that they needed something more permanent and accessible that the local school yard.

Peter managed to arrange a small garage/workshop to work from and muster a very modest set of basic boxing equipment to build a functioning gym. This has allowed the Group to get that little bit of security, consistency and stability. However, the situation remains far from ideal as you will see.

How We Do What We Do

The gym opens 5 nights per week for the local kids. The average attendance figures are between 15 and 30 kids coming in off the street, but on some nights this can swell to over 50. The kids know where it is and they make the most of it. Time for another movie reference, “If you build it, they will come”.

As well as week-day evenings, the Group also open it’s doors at the weekend, allowing young people with learning difficulties and disabilities to benefit from this community resource. These young people can often struggle with the ability to mix well with others, so with the help and support of their parents they use the gym and learn from the expertise of Peter, Danny and Tom.

Beyond the gym though, the Group really engage with the community in a special way. A visit to the Group’s Facebook page (there’s a link at the end of the article) reveals any number of character-building activities:

During a recent spell of cold weather and snow, Peter and the youngsters went around the area and cleared the paths of the elderly and others with mobility problems. They also went on ‘messages’ for the housebound, buying shopping, paying bills etc.

Peter worked with the boys to clean graffiti in the local area, specifically graffiti that the young people were responsible for. That’s direct action within the community and carries a real message of what’s right and wrong for the kids.

On the night before Halloween, called Mischief Night here in England (or maybe just Liverpool, I don’t know), Peter opened up the gym offering an X-Box tournament, pool, darts, table tennis, films and food for the kids of the area.

This stuff is for me what sets the L1 Youth Group apart. Setting up a boxing gym for the young people is a great thing to do. Setting up a boxing gym and giving the kids this level of social responsibility to their community is something a bit special.

It’s a Results Business

In a little under a year of operation, what have Peter, Danny and the guys achieved as a direct result of all of their hard work? It would be enough to say that lots of young people have been given access to learning opportunities, a chance to be together in a relaxed, engaging and welcoming environment.

But in this age of targets, statistics and benchmarks, has the community seen the benefit of the efforts of the L1 Youth Group team? Well, Merseyside Police has provided the answer to this question:

Following the Mischief Night initiative, the Police called on The L1 and informed them that it had been the quietest such night in over 25 years.

The Police have stated that crime and anti-social behaviour in the immediate area has reduced by around 85% since the L1 Youth Group started up.

Peter and Danny have put in place a community resource that has amateur boxing at it’s core, but is about so much more than that. The L1 Youth Group is about building in a sense of community responsibility within the young people. This goes above and beyond boxing.

What Comes Next?

What Peter, Danny and the rest of the team at L1 have achieved to date is incredible. However, they are only too aware that some key things need to happen to really get this superb project to the next level. At the heart of this is the need to become an affiliated boxing club within the Amateur Boxing Association of England.

As well as opening up some real funding opportunities, this affiliation will bring the all-important aspect of real competition for the youngsters. Competition will add that major aspect that all young people need to learn in life, hard work brings great rewards, and there can be few better rewards than your arm being lifted in victory after a tough contest.

This affiliation requires bigger premises for the gym. In short, with floor space at such a premium, the guys simply cannot consider installing a boxing ring. And as I’m sure you will agree, a boxing ring is quite important to a boxing club!

Discussions are under way with the local council to assist with the premises, and this is very welcome news to the L1. St Vincent de Paul Primary School continues to support the L1 Youth Group, no doubt because the teachers and parents there see first hand what the Group brings to the community.

What would be fantastic is if you could visit the L1 Youth Group Facebook page and click on the “Like” button. The more people that see what the team there have done, the more likely that this approach could be taken in other areas of other countries all around the World. Who knows where it could end. Here’s the link:

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any comments or questions, then the comments section below is awaiting. Alternatively feel free email me.



Related Articles:

Boxing Clubs – Making a Difference
The Corner Man
Teddy Atlas on Boxers and Coaches
Boxing Coaching – My 7 Methods for Coaching a Group
Boxing Gyms – 3 Golden Rules to Survive Them

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Thom November 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Thanks for another great article.
It is important to highlight the work of the many good people of this world who are paying back the world for their own existence. I would like to take a moment, as a recipient of such action, to highlight a gym in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rock Steady Boxing is dedicated to working with people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. As a participant and coach I am proud to be involved with this organization.
On a personal basis, my participation with this group has improved my basic endurance, coordination, strength, range of motion, out look….well just about every aspect of my life. We are not a youth oriented organization as the average age of diagnosis for Parkinson’s is 61. This is a group who is helped and helps the community in which it exists. Every “first timer” is simultaneously humbled and motivated by this great sport. There is no contact as the fight we face is sufficient. For any of your readers who may not realize it, this is an outstanding sport for any age and no one is ever too late to start.
Thank you for this site, Fran!


Fran November 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Thank you Thom for you kinds words. Thank you also for championing the work of what looks like an amazing initiative out there in Indianapolis. I have followed the FB page, Twitter and YouTube account of RSB. I look forward to hearing the motivational tales that are generated by guys like you and all concerned at Rock Steady.

Thanks Thom, you have brought an admiring smile to my face!


Brent April 17, 2013 at 1:28 am

Lately I have come to realise that boxing (and probably other combat sports) , at least for me, not only builds up self confidence but also fosters respect and humility towards others.
For those of us that experience the blood, sweat and tears that goes into even a semi-serious boxers training, all delusions of grandeur, arrogance and machismo seem to disapate – we all know without saying that theres always someone better, faster, stronger, fitter and able to kick your arse! It seems that this knowledge keeps your ego in check.
Boxing builds you up but also keeps you in line!


Fran April 17, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Hear hear! Great comment Brent, thanks very much.


Charles April 15, 2013 at 8:57 pm

And of course, telling about such a fantastic achievement, here were real people can appreciate the determination that a few with heart and a dream can do for others, can only inspire more to follow suite.

Not a BBC special report but a real person telling us about real people making a real difference.

When I was younger we had the federation of boys clubs, adventure parks and free or cheap swimming for kids.

All that good stuff cut as you point out by mean local authorities and replaced by bland houses, boring shopping halls and pound shops.

I hope this is the start of a revolution back to those days. I am going to look for my own opportunity or a least support anyone else doing something similar.

If we don’t support, do, or help where we can, we in the UK may end up like the USA, with an even more dismal record of inter youth violence caused by the authorities erosion of facilities for communities and the sense of loss and boredom that is in a large part responsible for the awful behaviour of many of the young and teens up and down the country.

Great Story.
Thank you.


Fran April 17, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Thank you Charles. They do a very important job and it’s nice that people recognise that.


marlene taylor March 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm

peter,danny and tom are doing a very good job,my two grandsons attend the gym ,they love it there,mason and reece mclean,cant thank the L1 gym for giving the kids down the lane something to look forward to,well done to u all


Fran March 15, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Very nice comment Marlene. The lads really do seem to be making a difference there.


Brent March 8, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Excellent read. I live in a small town in Northland, New Zealand where unemployment, crime, and the related problems is also a major problem. The gym I go to has a programme free to the local teens and it has done some great things for some of them . Its taken them off the street, improved their health and fitness and fostered respect for self and others.
It has even turned around some local thugs/ bullies that came in with a chip on their shoulder and an angry mugg, looking to get in the ring and beat anyone up at every opportunity – sometimes old school logic applies and after a good (but safe) hiding in the ring by someone fitter, more skilled and disciplined, they were quite literally knocked off their perch . Most came back after a while of nursing their bruised egos and towed the line, joined in and were respectful.
I myself am a local teacher and much older than these youths – I enjoy boxing for the sport and health but also enjoy being a part of the great vibe that is there!
Brent form Kaikohe, New Zealand.


Fran March 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

Brilliant comment Brent, thankyou. It goes to show that these initiatives are helping fight problems that are common to communities the World over.


Paul Smith March 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm

I thought you would like that verse…as you are living proof!



Paul Smith March 2, 2013 at 12:43 am

Proverbs 22:6 ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’
Fantastic work Fran! Best regards and wishes for continued success.


Fran March 2, 2013 at 9:41 am

Like it Paul. Thank you for the support buddy.


Dan February 25, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Brilliant post Fran.

I love reading stories like this. Not only is Boxing a great sport but it can really bring people together.

The people I train with in my boxing gym are like a second family to me.

I sincerely look forward to hearing success stories from the L1 Youth Group.


Fran February 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Thanks Dan. They are a great bunch and as you say, this is true at most boxing clubs. I’ll be sure to continue to follow the L1 and will keep you all informed of their progress.


alexander February 24, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Hi Dave (Waterman), yes I agree with you. And would only say access to funding is probably easier in the Cities than in Landward areas.

But my main concerns are more with the ‘closed shop’ attitude which seems to build around the ‘ Sports bodies’ and ‘Local Authorities’, who start making it very difficult for ‘outsiders, new comers, and non favourites to break in’. And in this regards, good luck to L1 in getting affiliated.

In my own experience, I think curent Rules, Regulations, and Officialdom are making it very difficult for ‘grass roots sports’ and ‘social boxing ‘involvement. To the point of sillieness. Accepting that there are a lot of undesirable people who have brought this about.

That is what I like about Fran and ‘My Boxing’ , it’s giving out information more or less free, and widley avialable. Which I can’t say any Tax funded Government Body I know is. Thereby ends my sermon. And I am off to do some foot work and beat up on some Heavy Bags with the Grandkids. According to My Boxing style. Or bend a local Councilors ear. Alex


Dave Waterman February 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Agreed regarding funding opportunities in cities mate; but I guess that’s where most of the socially deprived youngsters exist. Agreed too regarding My Boxing Coach; without wanting to blow smoke up Fran’s rear end, it truly is the best boxing resource on the net.


Fran February 26, 2013 at 10:15 pm

This room’s got just got very smokey (cough, splutter, stinging eyes…) Thanks mate. Your thoughts on Floyd Mayweather are needed in the next few days. An article is being crafted as we speak and I’m really looking forward to the comments of your good self, Ivan, Alex and the many others who express opinions on here. I’m sure that Mr Mayweather will raise cause an outpouring of conflicting views.


Dave Waterman February 28, 2013 at 4:56 am

I’ll look forward to the article, Fran.


Richie Kendrick February 24, 2013 at 9:19 am

Superb article Fran, I know these guys and I am always humbled when in their precense. Thanks for taking the time to promote what they do.
Richie K


Fran February 24, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Thanks Rich. When I came across their FB Page it really did give me a lift. Top stuff.


Simon Piccirillo February 24, 2013 at 12:03 am

Great article Fran. I have massive respect for what those guys are doing and the reason they’re doing it, to make a difference to other peoples lives rather than just they’re own. I’m making my donation now.


Fran February 24, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Thanks mate. It means such a great deal to them, you are a true gentleman.


Alexander February 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Thanks Fran, that’s the kind of Amateur Boxing Club I recognise, as having saved me from my street days, some half century ago. When it was usually the unofficial Bookies who funded the Gyms. And in return, I suppose, did organise frequent tournaments, where some betting took place, I am sure. And some bigger events with tables and local heroes. That was the old days. Not allowed now

And having looked at starting, or just getting involved, in a Boxing Gym recently. In one of those all too many, all too common, UK high ranking areas, for child poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and all the stuff that goes with it. I find Red tape in the way at every turn, to satisfy ‘over the top’, local authority and national regulations. And a need for umpteen, nit-picking diplomas, which are ridiculously expensive, take ages, and are not easily available.

At a National event recently, the negative effect of need for petty certificates, over experience, was all too apparent. With excellent Coaches, not allowed into the Ring Areas with their Boxers, not allowed in their Boxers corner, and Boxers competing under Clubs, which they did not train at. Just because they did not have this or that certificate. Too much of this stuff marginaliises many and excludes a lot. While the Administrators who think these things up, coin it in. And the youngsters on the estates etc, miss out.

And try applying for money from the Peoples Lottery, for small community initiatives, like getting a Boxing Club running, you need a Lawyer. And the ‘multi billions’ poured into the National Sporting Bodies, City Stadiums, and elitist fantasies like the London Olympics, ‘hardly trickle down’ to the grass roots communities, as we see. At one time small communities ran their own Lottery Cards and Raffles, to sponsor the local clubs, but Lotto knocked that out. And what was wrong with the local Boxing Club running the occasional show to help funds, and exercise their athletes. No place for Local responsibility or community esteem.

I liked very much, your comment of exercising in back-yards, and I do often dream about, seeing a few thousand young boxers going through their shadow boxing drills, in synchronization, in a Town Park one day. Much as I have seen the Cuban Schools doing in small groups. And as the Martial Arts lot, do to a lesser degree. Lets have a national day to raise funds.

So may L1, keep going. And apart from donations, may the Electorate start Voting for their local Communities, Regions, and youngsters. And get the Lottery Scheme changed. Sorry for getting Political, hope you will let me away with this one time. Thanks, AlexL.


Dave Waterman February 24, 2013 at 7:51 am


Excuse me replying but in the area where I work (Battersea, in the borough of Wandsworth) there are funds available for youth projects with the aim of tackling petty crime and unsocial behaviour (seen as the forerunner to more serious crime). We (a small group of like mind individuals) have successfully gained funding for a project much like L1 by presenting a sound business plan and conducting in depth reviews at appropriate junctures. Our initial project has been running successfully for three years in April and we have just started a second project at a pupil referral unit where we engage with excluded pupils through the sport of boxing.

This is no me bigging myself up in any way but simply saying that we have found a way to acquire funding, engage with hard to reach youngsters and promote our sport. I would be happy to share the detail with you if you think it might help.



Fran February 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Thanks Alex.

It’s a good point’ Of course the L1 is really in it’s very early stages. They will no doubt be subjected to any number of barriers on their road. I just sincerely hope that they are able to maintain a foothold and grow. That’s got to be the aim.

I think that you hit many points. I certainly remember as a young boxer selling ‘spot the balls’ for the gym, looking to raise some meagre pennies. That was long before the funding opportunities that exist now.

The point that Dave makes is relevant though. The concern I’d have around the L1 and other little outfits of that nature is that getting through those ‘gates’ might be a bit of a challenge. Often these ventures are initiated by guys who have no real experience in writing business plans, applications for funding or managing a project over a prolonged period. I think that Liverpool City Council have over the years been very kind to amateur boxing. I hope on this occasion that they can continue this trend.

Thanks Alex and Dave, some excellent history there and some bang up to date demonstrations of what’s possible.


Fran February 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Thanks Alex.

It’s a good point’ Of course the L1 is really in it’s very early stages. They will no doubt be subjected to any number of barriers on their road. I just sincerely hope that they are able to maintain a foothold and grow. That’s got to be the aim.

I think that you hit many points. I certainly remember as a young boxer selling ‘spot the balls’ for the gym, looking to raise some meagre pennies. That was long before the funding opportunities that exist now.

The point that Dave makes is relevant though. The concern I’d have around the L1 and other little outfits of that nature is that getting through those ‘gates’ might be a bit of a challenge. Often these ventures are initiated by guys who have no real experience in writing business plans, making applications for funding or managing a project over a prolonged period. I think that Liverpool City Council have over the years been very kind to amateur boxing. I hope on this occasion that they can continue this trend.

Thanks Alex and Dave, some excellent history there and some bang up to date demonstrations of what’s possible.


Rich February 22, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Brilliant work.


Fran February 24, 2013 at 6:32 pm

They do indeed achieve great things. Thanks Rich.


Scottie February 22, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Tremendous article on the lads & the group Fran!..


Fran February 23, 2013 at 9:44 pm

CHeers Scottie 😉


Anonymous February 22, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Tremendous article on the lads & the group Fran!..


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