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New club gets them Hooked

PUBLISHED: 17:44 21 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:45 24 August 2010

By Ben Kosky PEELING paint, faded punchbags, sweat and determination… those are the phrases you d usually associate with the majority of amateur boxing gyms in London. But at newly-formed Hooks ABC in Park Royal, sweat and determination go in tandem with

By Ben Kosky

PEELING paint, faded punchbags, sweat and determination... those are the phrases you'd usually associate with the majority of amateur boxing gyms in London.

But at newly-formed Hooks ABC in Park Royal, sweat and determination go in tandem with references like 'solarium', 'salt cave' and 'Olympic-size boxing ring'.

The boxing club is part of a multi-sports facility run by ex-international wrestler Alexis Demetriades, along with his brother Marios and another wrestler, Paul Ivens, who took on the former Gold's Gym last summer and rebranded it London Shootfighters.

Already boasting an impressive portfolio in mixed martial arts, the trio invited Steve Newland - who coached Harlesden's James DeGale to an Olympic gold medal - to run the new boxing section.

Newland already has around 30 boxers under his tutelage, including several youngsters who followed him from Dale Youth Club in Ladbroke Grove.

But Hooks have also attracted new faces - among them two female boxers, Michelle Ward and Annelie de Dries, who both travel from Berkshire to train there.

"In the north, there are a lot of gyms that are council-funded, but in London they rely purely on the hard work of dedicated people," said Newland.

"Most gyms are old and even top clubs like Repton and West Ham are always fighting just to keep their buildings. But the people here are businessmen and they've given us the chance to run a boxing club.

"The ring is Olympic size and that makes a difference - a lot of times kids have gone out to tournament finals and they've never been in a ring this size.

"We've got a physio here, which you wouldn't usually find at a boxing club - and, when people come and use the gym equipment, they often bring their children.

"You get kids wanting to try out different sports because it's all here in the same place. Everyone is sports-orientated and there are classes non-stop - that's what makes it so vibrant."

"I had five great years at Dale Youth, but it was time for a change. Dale Youth is a big name in boxing, but now I want to make Hooks famous for boxing too."

Boxers are able to make use of the other facilities on site, which include a large wrestling mat that can be used for warm-ups, a fitness gym, a sauna and jacuzzi and even a salt cave for treating strains and infections.

The centre also trains athletes for cage fighting and UFC competitions in the USA, and Alexis Dimitriades is delighted to have added boxing to the list of classes on offer.

"I think we've got a couple of Olympic hopefuls here already and we've already had pros like Derek Chisora coming down and sparring with the amateurs," he observed.

"Sometimes you can get engulfed in your own sport and it becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, so cross-training can be good - it keeps you relaxed.

"We pride ourselves on world-class facilities and world-class coaching - all our coaches have international experience. Being around quality athletes brings your level up so much.

"The idea is: Olympic combat sports and mixed martial arts in one place on top of a top-class gym - we want to be the centre of excellence for 2012."

Boxing classes are Mondays (5pm-7.30pm), Fridays (5pm-8pm) and Saturdays (10.30pm-12.30pm). Call 020 8993 0993 for more information or visit www.hooksgym.com

MICHAEL Dunne became the first boxer to win in a Hooks vest with a unanimous verdict against G Merner (Caldwell St Mary's) on the Danson ABC show in south London.

Dunne made good use of his jab and reach to take the decision, while Hooks' Jake Fallon also triumphed in a skills bout with Jake Petit (Nemesis).

Harry Connolly was the first boxer to represent the club, losing on points to Southend's B Pollinghorn on the Barking ABC show at Woodford.

Team-mate Patsy Corcoran was unlucky to lose a majority decision against Joe Johnson (Barking) on the same show.

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