By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
A boxing academy which has diverted hundreds of kids away from gangs and knife crime could close after the rent for its building sky-rocketed.
Jawaid Khaliq MBE, who grew up in The Meadows, became the first British Asian boxing world champion in 2000 when he won the IBO welterweight title.
Following retirement in 2004, he has been running boxing classes at the Sycamore Centre in St Ann’s for 15 years, helping around 100 people a week.
But now his boxing academy is at risk of closure because the rent is expected to rise from £368 to £1,462 a month.
The boxing academy has until July to find vital funds so it can remain open.
Mr Khaliq and his team said closure will have devastating consequences for the community, especially for young people who describe it as a “safe haven”.
Makai Wakeman, 18, of Bestwood, is one of those people. He said his anger issues saw him in constant trouble at school and involved in fights.
“I was a very angry person and didn’t know where I was going in life,” he said.
“The boxing academy has changed my life around. I learnt to grow as a person. It gave me life skills and more confidence.
“I would be in jail if it wasn’t here. It sounds cliché but I would not be who I am now.”
Makai said his aspirations are to become a professional boxer – but these dreams could now be shattered.
“The effects are going to be devastating for me because this is what I want for my future. If it closes, my dream is gone.
“It’s not just an academy, it is a community. People will not have a place to go.”
Mr Khaliq said he hopes sponsors will come forward to prevent the academy from having to close its doors.
He said: “We continue to receive referrals from youth services and we work closely with the local police force to help transform the lives of young people who exhibit anti-social behaviour patterns.
“Our work at the academy has helped these youngsters with their confidence, social skills, improved work ethic and educational aspirations.
“A number of our academy amateur boxers have expressed an interest in becoming Level 1 and 2 qualified boxing coaches.
“Due to the current financial climate our costs to run the academy have trebled, this includes the cost of renting our current training facility and our utility costs.
“As an academy we are simply unable to sustain this significant rise and will be left with no choice but to close.
“To put things in perspective, our monthly rent of £368 will be increasing to £1,462, this translates to an astonishing 397 per cent increase which is simply unsustainable given that we are a social enterprise and primarily a volunteer driven organisation.”
A’isha Rahman Khan, director at the academy, added: “It will be devastating if we close. It will take away the safe haven young people have got.
“Crime is rampant especially among young people and we provide a service that gets them off the streets and gives them physical and mental wellbeing as well as focus and mentoring. It is also a big honour for them to be trained by a world champion.”
Charity the Renewal Trust rents the building from Nottingham City Council and sub-lets to the academy and Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.
The trust said it was advised this year that the funding the charity receives would be reduced by 24 per cent by Nottingham City Council.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: “JK Boxing Academy currently pay £1.57 per square foot or £ 13.48 per day.
“This is for the main hall area only— they do not pay for their reception or kitchen space in either calculation.
“This rent is considerably below market rate for such space and simply does not cover existing costs. Like everyone else we are also facing gross increases in utilities.
“Nottingham City Council only advised us in March this year that the funding for the building would be reduced by 24 per cent with effect from April 1, this is has further exacerbated the position.
“We would very much prefer that JK Boxing remains at the Sycamore Centre, but understand if they felt they had no alternative but to find alternative premises, but appreciate like many charities they need to consider their financial position.”
Councillor Neghat Khan, Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods, Safety and Inclusion at Nottingham City Council, added: “We appreciate the important work that community groups such as the Jawaid Khaliq Boxing Academy carry out from local community centres, and understand the difficulties they face. However, their lease is directly with the Renewal Trust and not the council.
“As a Board Member of the Renewal Trust, we have discussed how the rising costs of utility bills are having a significant impact on community groups whose bills are included in the rent.
“Tenants need to realise that costs have gone up and try to do what they can to negotiate terms and take action themselves to bring costs down.
“The Renewal Trust has received significant investment in the Sycamore Centre from the council for many years in comparison to other community venues which have received no grant funding.
“Their grant has been reduced by 24 per cent this year due to the council’s own grant funding from Government reducing by £101m since 2013/14. However, we believe that even the reduced grant is sufficient for them to run the Sycamore Centre.”
The academy is now looking for sponsors to help keep the facility running. Anyone who can help is being asked to contact – [email protected]