By Tom Degun

Amir_Khan_boxing_feature_15-08-11August 16 - Mark Abberley, the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE) chief executive, believes that encouraging more disaffected and disengaged young people across the country to learn amateur boxing can help to heal what Prime Minister David Cameron has labelled "the sick society".

Abberley, who took over from Paul King as ABAE chief executive earlier this year, says the sport's track record of connecting with disengaged young people and helping to address problems like anti-social and criminal behaviour in schools and communities mean politicians should make it part of any solution to deal with the problems highlighted by the riots that swept across England last week.

"I am not for one second saying that boxing is the sole solution to what is a very complex set of problems, however I know from visiting schools and boxing clubs up and down the country that the sport is a powerful tool in helping to combat anti-social and criminal behaviour," said Abberley.

"It has a proven track record of re-engaging young people, addressing behavioural issues and engendering discipline and values like respect for others and respect for rules that appear to be shockingly absent in many young people.

"I am convinced that boxing, and other sports that have a track record of engaging with young people in socially deprived areas, should have a seat at the table in any future discussions that policy makers are planning, to address the underlying issues behind the terrible scenes we have seen last week.

"Through the experience of the hundreds of coaches and volunteers that work across amateur boxing in England, I am certain we have a valuable contribution to make and that if central and local government worked with us to get more people engaged in the sport it would have a positive contribution on young people and the communities they live in."

An example of a boxing club set up to address social problems and improve community cohesion is All Stars in West London.

Isola_Akay__in_boxing_poseAll Stars was set up in 1974 by Isola Akay (pictured) after a local gym turned his son away because of the colour of his skin.

The club trains more than 300 youths a week, charging just £1.50 for a two-hour session, and is widely recognised as a critically important resource in the community that helps young children stay away from gangs.

Akay, who is now 74 yet still works at the gym every day, was awarded the MBE in 2000 and has been nominated as a possible Torchbearer when the Olympic flame comes to the UK ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

He is currently engaged in a battle to save the club which faces closure unless it can stump up £100,000 ($162,990/€113,930) in rent arrears before the lease runs out at the end of June.

He has received enormous support from the local community and the chart-topping band, Razorlight, recently played a gig in the gym to raise funds.

Lead singer Johnny Borrell  said: "These places are very important not only for the local community but for London as a whole.

"In a boxing club it does not matter who you are, you must give everybody respect and that is a lesson that you can take with you into the outside world."

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