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All Stars help those medalling kids

PUBLISHED: 16:34 18 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:46 24 August 2010

By Ben Kosky NORTH West London has produced two Olympic boxing champions in the last decade – and now the race is on to complete a hat-trick in 2012. Audley Harrison (2000) and James DeGale (2008) both hailed from Brent and, just down the road, All Stars

By Ben Kosky

NORTH West London has produced two Olympic boxing champions in the last decade - and now the race is on to complete a hat-trick in 2012.

Audley Harrison (2000) and James DeGale (2008) both hailed from Brent and, just down the road, All Stars ABC are hoping for a slice of the action when the Games come to the UK capital.

Coach Isola Akay, who founded the Westbourne Park club 35 years ago, watched the Olympic dream become reality for his late son Tee Jay Akay, who fought Evander Holyfield at Los Angeles in 1984.

And Akay is quietly hopeful that some of the current crop of youngsters under his tutelage can force their way into the frame for the Great Britain team in less than three years' time.

"My intention is to work towards it," he told the Times. "We've got a lot of boys here who are the right ages, 18 and 19, with outstanding raw talent and I've told them 'you are our Olympic prospects.

'We're going to use our experience to see that, when the time comes for selection to be made, you will be put forward. Hopefully if you come up to the grade you'll be in'.

"We are naming this campaign 'Justify your inclusion'. The door is open if they train hard, listen to what the coaches tell them and behave well. By the time 2012 comes around, there's a chance they can make it."

Like DeGale, one of All Stars' best young prospects, 16-year-old Obi Egbunike lives in Harlesden and reached a national amateur final last year - the ABA junior novice championships.

The Ghanaian-born teenager also impressed on the club's recent trip to Connemara in Ireland, where he won the best boxer award after knocking out his opponent in the first round.

"Last year he was sensational," added Akay. "In a few years' time, if everything goes well, he'll be a middleweight with more confidence and more experience and he'll stand a chance."

However, it isn't only the male boxers at the Harrow Road club who have one eye on 2012 - European welterweight champion Lesley Sackey is set to be a leading contender for the inaugural Olympic women's boxing tournament.

"Lesley's still here and the good news is that she's been asked by the ABA to be one of the people they assess over the next year and a half for the Olympics," said Akay.

"Every morning I'm here trying to keep her in good shape, she's looking good and very excited about getting the chance. To get somebody from here representing Great Britain in the Olympics would be an inspiration to all the young people.

"When Lesley was boxing for the European Championships two years ago, we hired a minibus to go and see her in Liverpool - but this time it would be just around the corner!"

Sackey's European title was the latest in a lengthy list of success at All Stars, who have produced several ABA champions since Tyrone Forbes - now one of the club's six coaches - triumphed in 1976.

James Oyebola, who was gunned down at a Fulham nightclub in 2007, won two ABA titles for All Stars before becoming British heavyweight champion, while Istvan Szucs claimed an ABA crown just over a year ago.

Michael Ayres held the IBO world lightweight title, while Tee Jay Akay became British cruiserweight champion after knocking out Roy Smith in the first round and held it until he was deposed by Glenn McCrory.

As well as training potential future champions, the club also currently run sessions for groups from Imperial College, as well as offering boxing for fitness classes for both men and women.

But the focus is back on the juniors tomorrow night, when All Stars host the second London Mayor's Cup at Portchester Hall, Paddington, from 8pm.

Mayor Boris Johnson will attend, along with new WBA world heavyweight champion David Haye, and tickets are priced at £15 (adults) and £5 (under-16s).

Call 020 8960 7724, 020 8904 4352 or 07859 805 999 for more details or visit www.londonmayorscup.co.uk

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