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All Stars Boxing Gym: Star-studded concert raises £10,000 for legendary Queen's Park club threatened with closure

PUBLISHED: 12:26 17 December 2018

Muf Akay (centre) with boxers Desharn Fearon, Ahley Theophane, Shaquanne Lindsay and Amani Bruce. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Muf Akay (centre) with boxers Desharn Fearon, Ahley Theophane, Shaquanne Lindsay and Amani Bruce. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Jonathan Goldberg

A world-famous Queen's Park boxing club that is on the ropes after being hit with a £50,000 legal bill called in a string of celebrity favours at a star-studded fundraiser last night.

Chrissie Hynde performs at the All Stars Boxing Gym benefit gig. Picture: Jonathan GoldbergChrissie Hynde performs at the All Stars Boxing Gym benefit gig. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

All Stars Boxing Gym in the Harrow Road has been a vital part of the community for 45 years but will have to close if it doesn’t raise the cash by the end of the month.

Manager Muf Akay, who took over the running of the club from his father Isola in 2013, has already raised £20,000 and he was given a big boost after calling on celebrity members to help out.

On Sunday Chrissie Hynde, Beverley Knight, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, The Feeling and Ed Harcourt showed they were in the gym’s corner by performing in one of its boxing rings.

The event helped raise almost £10,000 towards the total, but another £20,000 is now needed in less than two weeks.

Chrissie Hynde in the ring. Picture: Jonathan GoldbergChrissie Hynde in the ring. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Richard Jones of The Feeling – who has trained there – is planning an online auction to raise more and Beverley Knight is speaking to her famous friends to see what they can do.

Muf told The Times: “It was really good, the atmosphere was fantastic.

“There were more than 250 people there and the artists were all really passionate about what was happening and said they were going to do all they could.

“We’re very, very hopeful we can hit the target and this has given us a real boost.”

The likes of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, David Haye, Frank Bruno and Nigel Benn have all trained at the Queen’s Park centre – a registered charity.

But after bosses took their landlord to court for not carrying out the essential repairs it had been ordered to, they ended up being told by a judge to pay the owner’s legal costs – an eye-watering £50,000.

All Stars is no stranger to big names in the music world. A fundraiser to cover rent arrears in 2011 saw Razorlight play in the club, as singer Johnny Borrell trained there.

The following year, the landlord was told to give the gym a new 15-year lease and do essential repairs. The repair work is now being done, but the gym has been hit with the massive bill.

“It’s terrible,” said Muf. “We wouldn’t have even been in court if the work had been done.

“For over 45 years we have been a beacon in the community, providing a haven for the disadvantaged youth, and we have helped turn around the lives of thousands of kids. We’ve been at the forefront of fighting against gangs, knife crime, social disorder and exclusion.”

The gym was launched in 1974 because Muf’s late older brother Tee Jay, a British cruiserweight champion, encountered racism at the local boxing clubs.

Muf explained: “When he started boxing he went to the clubs and he was allowed to go, but not his friends. They said they didn’t want too many black kids. So my dad started a club in the corridor of our council flats, on the sixth floor.

“Then the council heard about this man training 20 kids in a corridor and offered him a space at Mulberry Youth Centre, and he was there for 10 years. Then he moved to the derelict church where we are now.

“Thirty-five years ago my dad raised £150,000 to refurbish it.”

Ghanian born Isola, a former West African champion, was made an MBE in 2000 and carried the Olympic torch in 2012.

The club has more than 1,000 members and runs an amateur boxing “knock out circuit” for anybody who wants to train. There are also female only, kickboxing and Muay Thai classes.

“The amount of kids we helped stay away from a life of crime is huge,” Muf added. “Some have been in trouble with the police. My father used to go to the police stations and get kids out.

“We mentor them. If we were not around there would definitely be a lot more kids hanging around the streets with nothing to do and there would be more gang violence.”

The landlord could not be reached for comment.

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