A BOXING gym in Alway is making a difference in turning around the lives of young people in the area.

Carl Samuels has run Alway Amateur Boxing Club, alongside Dan Guscott and Matthew Allwood, for the past eight years, and says he hopes it helps improve the lives of young people in the area.

Coming from a family with a history of boxing, Mr Samuels sees the sport as a way to bring the community together and to support disaffected youth who may be in danger of getting into trouble with the law.

"This is a council estate, emotionally and financially," said Mr Samuels. "This gym is is good for them and they know when they come here I keep it real with them, there's no airs or graces.

"There's no swearing or anything in the gym, but I'm a very stern, straight stern guy because I've lived the life and I know about being emotional as a kid."

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Having grown up in Alway, he knows all too well the struggles that some families in the area face.

Mr Samuels said: "I had nothing as a kid, I remember being hungry - starving - with no electricity for three years.

"I remember going to school after Christmas and lying when the teacher said 'what do you have for Christmas?'

"I just had nothing, not one thing. So you know, when I see that emotional indicator can pick it up straight away because I've lived that, I've been that kid."

The gym is run on a non-profit basis, with just enough made to cover the electricity bills.

Mr Samuels treats it as a volunteering job, and members are asked to pay only a small amount - and anyone struggling is able to go free of charge.

"There's nothing worse than wanting to train when I was a kid," said Mr Samuels. "Going into the gym and being embarrassed because I didn't have the money to pay sub.

"Then the coach would embarrass me in front of everyone and say 'everyone else is paying but you're not paying', but the coach knew I didn't have the money.

"So that's why I post statuses up sometimes saying 'if you want to train and you've got no money, private message me, no one will know and you can come and train for nothing in the gym'.

"So it's all starting from my childhood, with what I've been through I can relate to these kids."

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To demonstrate his level of influence in the area, Mr Samuels said of how he recently got two young boys who were in a vicious fight to reconcile after two phone calls.

Both the boys now train together in the gym.

Mr Samuels is no stranger to personal issues, having spent time in jail, and battling drug abuse.

He believes his experience makes him uniquely positioned to teach people in the area, as he has "been there, done it and got the t-shirt".

In fact, his first offence was smashing up the building that houses his gym when he was 11 years old.

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Mr Samuels said: "My first criminal record was smashing this place up, this was derelict when I was a kid.

"I think I was 11 and about 10 of us came in throwing stuff around, so the police come and arrested us.

"Ain't that mad?"

Mr Samuels believes that although his gym can help, more lasting change is needed to help curb the issues in Alway.

He said: "What have the kids got? They've got a community centre where they can play football.

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"I'm not sure how many days it is but it's not much for the kids around.

"I just think that the council shutting everything down is part of the problem.

"The area needs structure as in youth clubs Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

"I remember when I was a kid there used to be clubs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and a Saturday club as well.

"I just think it needs more activity, it's easier said than done. There's no magic potion because if there was we wouldn't have these crime levels would we?"

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Mr Samuels admitted that there would always be people not willing to go to the clubs or want to disrupt things for others but believe struggling kids need support regardless.

"Change needs to be structured, there's no magic potion," he said.

"I was one of those kids, I just needed an arm round me."

Now Mr Samuels is hoping that he can fix up the front of the gym where there is currently scaffolding steps and to install mens and womens showers.

Alway Amateur Boxing Club is open for sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6pm til 7.15pm as well as on Tuesdays from 5pm until 6.15pm.

Mens and Womens fitness sessions are held at the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7.15pm until 8.15pm.

  • This is part of a series of articles called 'Our City', focusing on the people of Newport and the issues that they face.