Saved by the bell! Blackbird Leys ABC finds new home with Oxford Stadium’s support

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A historic boxing club at threat of closure has been granted a fresh lease of life with the support of Oxford Stadium and its wellbeing partner the Frank Bruno Foundation.  

Founded in 1960, Blackbird Leys ABC is Oxford’s longest-running boxing club having engaged members of all ages and abilities since 1960.

The club previously operated from Blackbird Leys Community Centre but faced closure while major plans to regenerate the popular site and its facilities were carried out.

Now, the volunteer-run club has established a new base at Oxford Stadium complete with a permanent ring, gym equipment and showering and changing facilities.

The move has been made possible following the completion of phase one of the Cowley venue’s health and wellbeing centre, which will be managed by the Frank Bruno Foundation and support people experiencing mental health issues in aspiring towards a brighter future.

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Blackbird Leys ABC secretary and coach Keith Perisi said the partnership is essential to the club’s long-term survival.  

“It’s been a concerning period for everyone associated with the club,” said Keith. “We’ve been supported by the council in trying to find a new venue but raising significant funds to make that a reality has been difficult.

“Partnering with Oxford Stadium and the Frank Bruno Foundation is a real lifesaver. Without this facility, we would’ve been forced to close after more than 60 years of creating healthy minds and bodies through the power of boxing.

“As everything we need is permanently based at the stadium too, it saves our volunteers a huge amount of time setting up. Our new gym is completely fit for purpose, and we look forward to engaging more youngsters and adults of all backgrounds with boxing for many years to come.”

Already, the new gym is hosting 60 participants each week and operating on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings plus Sunday mornings with a view to expanding the club’s programme further in the coming months.

Sessions are delivered to beginners, juniors and adults and new members of all races, religions, genders and abilities are welcome to attend without prejudice.

“Boxing is a fantastic sport to take up,” said Keith. “Aside from the expected health benefits, boxing promotes discipline and helps people to develop new skills and confidence in the company of like-minded individuals.

“It gives the younger generation something to do during their leisure time as well and supports them in staying out of trouble and establishing clear goals for their futures.

“The return of Oxford Stadium has injected new life into Blackbird Leys and Cowley. So many people have missed it, and we’re so pleased to be part of its regeneration.”

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Kevin Boothby, Oxford Stadium Managing Director, added: “It’s fantastic to see scores of people continuing to engage with Blackbird Leys ABC every week following the launch of its new home.

“Our regeneration project is about much more than reinstalling much-loved sports like greyhound racing and speedway back into Oxford. Our foremost ambition is to place this facility back into the hands of the community.

“Our work with the Frank Bruno Foundation is helping to make this possible, and we’re looking forward to the full launch of our new wellbeing centre later this summer.”

Further information about Blackbird Leys ABC is available online via its website by clicking here.

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