The Pugilist

Is it time for boxing to return to English schools?

Olympic champion Anthony Joshua has urged schools to start using boxing to help teach pupils about discipline and staying fit.

The London 2012 hero met a group of 12 year olds in the gym to put them through their paces on boxing skills and teach them the importance of fitness and nutrition as part of a promotion for Sky Sports.

However, he also used the opportunity to call for a return of boxing into Physical Education classes.

"Years ago there used to be boxing in schools which would help with discipline, self-defence and confidence,” he said.

"I’d love to see boxing brought back into schools in some form. It doesn’t have to be sparring or full contact boxing. Pad work, skipping, drills, bag work – they’re all good for encouraging better behaviour and better ways of living your life.

"Boxing has helped me with discipline. It has really shaped me and made me the man I am today. I left education at 18 and since then boxing has taught me to do my own research, both in books and online, and to generally keep sharp mentally. "

Boxing stopped being taught in English schools in 1962 when a campaign to ban it from PE classes won popular support.

In 2007, it was reintroduced into a limited number of schools under the supervision of the Amateur Boxing Association of England.

There are obvious safety concerns when it comes to boxing - especially at the professional level – but finances also come into the equation. Insurance and liability costs, as much as any outcry from parents, was one of the reasons why it was banned in the 1960s.

Muddying the waters further was the decision of the International Amateur Boxing Association to remove headguards from the men's amateur sport just last year.

However, Joshua, who has now turned professional, says the pros of boxing far outweigh the cons.

"It teaches you right from wrong but also what hard work is really about. If you want something you have to work hard and put the hours in, not just expect it to happen. You get out what you put into life," he said.

"The greatest thing about boxing is that you always hear stories about kids who came from nothing who make it and are successful at the top. It’s not about who you know, it’s about what you put in.

"Anyone can walk into a boxing club, you don’t have to be affiliated with anyone or know anyone, especially if you’re a young kid. There are so many different cultures and beliefs in a boxing gym; it makes it a really healthy place to be.

"I’d recommend for kids to follow what they want to do, but if they’re looking to get into something new then I would definitely recommend boxing. There are so many heights that you can take it to, but mainly it’s just a great education. There are so many great stories around the sport too, about all the great champions, it can be incredibly inspirational.”

The sport is also now unisex. Women's boxing was banned in England until 1996 but last year it proved to be one of the most popular events at London 2012 in its Olympic debut.

But what do you think? Would you let your kids compete in boxing? Or it is the last sport we should be encouraging? Leave your thoughts below.

(Photo: Lawrence Lustig)

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‘Sky Sports Game Changers’ is a live Saturday morning kids’ TV show at 9am on Sky Sports 1. Presented by Olympic gold medallist Darren Campbell and Di Dougherty, Game Changers features a host of sports stars and Sky Ambassadors including David Beckham and Jessica Ennis-Hill as well as Joshua. These special guests plus a mixture of live studio skills sessions and features with downloadable skills sheets aim to inspire kids to participate and get them active.