Gloves Up, Knives Down: standing up to knife crime in the UK
Lewis Watson speaks to one of the co-founders of 'Gloves Up, Knives Down', David Edgell, about the work the initiative is doing in troubled communities...
The power of boxing should never be underestimated, nor undervalued. The sport is littered with humbling tales of how the life of a youngster was changed forever from the moment they laced up their first pair of gloves having displayed the courage to stroll into a boxing gym.
The "rags to riches" cliché may be overused when citing the meteoric climbs of some of the sport's biggest names, however, boxing undeniably continues to reach out to those who live out of the spotlight; the pockets of society that many have forgotten.
This sentiment is seen worldwide, with fighters across the globe finding a path through the sport in an attempt to combat any problematic cards they have been dealt in life.
Speaking to former super flyweight world champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai last year, it’s hard to compare life in Britain to that of rural Thailand: “I have been through many difficult times,” Sor Rungvisai stated.
“I have been a trash collector and a security guard. I used to pick up food from trash bins to eat and survive. Boxing has changed my life and the lives of my loved ones. I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities that I have gotten, and I am working my hardest to be the best I can be.”
The humble beginnings of Srisaket aren’t unique, but the levels of knife crime in the UK – especially in London — is fast becoming an unwanted tag of association not seen, or understood, globally.
Over the past 12 months, serious youth violence has finally begun to receive the attention it so desperately needs. After record numbers of knife crimes were recorded in 2018, actions, not words, have become paramount in attempting to combat this national crisis. More than 100 people have been fatally stabbed already this year, including over 30 in London.
'Gloves Up, Knives Down' is a social enterprise that launched this year, with a primary focus on supporting young people living in communities affected by knife crime.
Co-founder David Edgell explained to BM how the initiative has been embraced by the boxing community, as well as the message they are hoping to convey.
"'Gloves Up, Knives Down' (GUKN) has been wholeheartedly embraced by the boxing community from its inception in March this year," Edgell proudly stated. "The boxing community has embraced the initiative. One by one, we are attracting more higher profile names, and our Instagram features pictures of [David] Haye and [Tyson] Fury for example. We would like more old school sagacious worthies to get behind us, and the press and promoters for example.
"GUKD wanted to distinguish itself by credibly getting the backing of high profile professional boxers, gyms, clubs and the sport's media. It was originally intended as a response to the knife crime phenomena in London, targeted at the demographic most likely to choose a life on the streets.
"Historically that demographic has been the well from which boxers have been historically drawn. Such has been the take up of our initiative that the word has spread to ‘society’ at large, beyond the boxing community, and is being responded to now both countrywide and indeed, worldwide. The proposition of Primary Intervention is a simple one, achievable and effective."
Edgell understands the unique power of boxing as a tool to inspire a younger generation, with countless attributes allowing pugilism to teach lessons other sports can't.
"Boxing is able to funnel a teen’s natural aggression in a meaningful way in a controlled environment. There are rules that must be abided by, respect shown, and you must exercise self-governance. You become part of a supportive community. Our academic opinion, written for us exclusively by Professor Joana Costa on our website, articulates this point perfectly.
"The Life Lessons learned in the ring can be taken out of it and exercised in a positive way by becoming a responsible citizen."
This academic opinion that Edgell alludes to reinforces these attributes: "Boxing teaches teenagers, for whom frustration and aggression are part and parcel of their youth, how to engage with others on their own terms, contributing toward developing a sense of worth and self-esteem, perhaps after not having been able to do so in other areas of their life."
With funding received through sales of their t-shirts online, GUKD's further growth will be aided by government backing. Proving the initiative's importance through positive results will surely hold the key to support from the current administration.
"The government needs to back GUKD’s objectives, with high profile figures and authorities realising that they are validating an actual initiative that is active and that works and makes a difference. It does what it says on the tin. We don't pretend to do more than we claim. We are targeting kids aged 7-13 before they decide to pick up a knife."
Just three months after its inception, those involved with 'Gloves Up, Knives Down' are already looking to the long-term future of the project. With the Metropolitan Police continuing to appeal to the public, highlighting that "The police cannot solve this problem alone,” now seems an appropriate time for initiatives like GUKD to gain the most traction.
Edgell finished by exploring the possibility of GUKD becoming an initiative-leader in the fight against knife crime. The first steps may always seem the most daunting to take, but the foundations have clearly been set for a successful future. A future that could change the lives of a generation of children.
"The long term goal is to achieve premium ‘brand recognition’ to attract corporate donors, government and authorities to invest in a product that works. We are without a doubt the highest profile initiative, a banner, if you will, behind which all other, smaller and local initiatives can rally behind and work with.
"Our success stories of children who have worked with us are heartwarming human ones that encourage us to do what we do more. It is not just the kids, the response from the parents and the institutions that work with them has been overwhelmingly positive too. Our reach grows daily. Considering we are in our infancy and are still at 'stage one' effectively in terms of perfecting our working model and protocols, the future promises to be the most effective contribution to combatting knife crime."
'Gloves Up, Knives Down' are taking the fight to a national crisis in the United Kingdom. With a clear direction and a passionate belief in the power of boxing, this initiative has the potential to save lives. It may currently seem like a drop in the ocean, but boxing continues to lead the way in supporting the forgotten sections of society.