Monday, January 19, 2015

White Collar Boxers Support Teenage Cancer Trust

Pictured: Gavin "The Power" Powell 
By Michelle Nardi
The Boxing Glove Editor

Social media has become a huge part of every day life for many people throughout the world. It does not matter the age, young and old, if you ask anyone about Facebook or Twitter they will know exactly what you are talking about. It would be hard to find a club, charity, or business that does not have a Facebook page or a Twitter account based around their interests, finding new customers, or donations. 

Social media, especially Facebook, has been criticized for feeding the self-centered egos of the ‘all about me age’ that want to fill our lives with the drama of their lives. When timelines are saturated with the politics of the day, my favourite recipe posts, and graphics with quotes about the true meaning of life and how to change your life, it can be overwhelming. Yet, it is not always feeding the ego of the Facebook user. There are charities and social organizations that reach out to the Facebook community to gain support for the charity or concerns in that moment and bring us down to Earth and reality.

A kind of bonding can occur to create a community based around a person’s interest. The sport of boxing has found a home on social media, especially Facebook. 2014 gave way to a big surge to the boxing community. Generally, boxers, current or retired, have a Facebook page. If you want to see the latest fitness craze to get in shape or who will be fighting whom for a championship belt, you will find it on Facebook.

One of those pages, Funkin Fitness, is not just another boxing enthusiast Facebook page. It has become the inspiration of the everyday man or woman who would like to get fit, and at the same time, raise money for the charity of their choice, while fulfilling their dream to step into a boxing ring. Funkin Fitness hosts White Collar Boxing events quarterly throughout the year. Club members are trained and while they are training they collect donations for their specific charity. At the end of the training period they get into the ring for their big bout. 

Pictured:Funkin Fitness Club Members

Since it’s opening 5 years ago, Steve Shewan, the operator and main trainer at Funkin Fitness says, “The club has grown from within. The lads who trained at the start are now the trainers and use the experience they gained to help the novices. I have novices of all ages, from 18 to 53. The atmosphere in the gym is second to none that I’ve experienced, as it’s a total group effort and the comradeship is brilliant, the guys train together and fight each other.”

Steve has helped give people the platform and support to not only change their lives, but also change the lives of others in need, with the funds raised from these White Collar Boxing events.

On March 28th, Funkin Fitness will be hosting another White Collar Boxing charity event at the Studio NightClub in Nantwitch, Cheshire, England. Novices take part in a 10-week vigorous training program that concludes with their opportunity to step into the ring. There are three rounds, with each round lasting two minutes.  One of Funkin Fitness’ novices, 30 year old Gavin “The Power” Powell, will make his boxing debut on this night. Gavin, who is the father of five children and has a very supportive wife, is from the Crewe area. An avid fan of boxing, he has always struggled with this weight since he was 16 years old, until he came upon the Funkin Fitness Facebook page. “I learned about white collar boxing through Steve’s Funkin Fitness page and knew in my own heart of the charity I'd like to do it for, and train to reach my goal.” 

Pictured: Gavin Powell Ready for His Debut
Gavin first heard about the Teenage Cancer Trust by listening to one of his favourite comedians, Jason Manford. In 2013, Manford became a supporter of Stephen Sutton, a teenager from Burntwood, England, who was undergoing treatment for colon cancer and was on his own mission to raise awareness and funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Manford and other celebrities joined Stephen Sutton on his campaign. When Stephen was hospitalized and unable to continue his mission, Manford continued efforts of awareness by starting the#thumbsupforStephen” campaign. Unfortunately, Sutton lost his battle with cancer on May 14, 2014. So far, Stephen Sutton has raised £4.96 million; his original goal was £10,000. His efforts and legacy live on through the Teenage Cancer Trust, and through people like Gavin Powell who were inspired by the selfless time and effort of this teenager to help other teenagers who are in a struggle with cancer.

Gavin recalls “I followed right til the end, sometimes feelin’ emotional, and then seeing him still smiling, inspired by him, even until his last few days.” The inspirational story of Stephen Sutton was not the only emotional catalyst that pushed Gavin to also fundraise for cancer, two years ago he lost his Aunt and a close friend’s father to cancer.

Each team member who chooses to participate in the White Collar Boxing events has to commit to raise the minimum donations of  £100 for a charity. Together, Gavin and his brother Darren joined Funkin Fitness to raise money for the charities they had in mind. “Me an my brother both started training at the same time, but I didn't feel fit enough at the time to take the fight night in December of last year.” Darren fought in the December 2013, while Gavin held back, not quite ready for his debut. It was not easy road. Both men were very unhealthy. 

Gavin remembers when he began his journey “I respect Steve as a trainer and a man. At first it was like startin’ school for the first time. I was a bit nervous cause I knew it was like makin’ new friends for the first time again. But once I got in there, everybody as a team, all showed me the ropes, hence the pun, lol, and now I always say my funkinfitness family, as we all stick together now with old and new faces."

According to head trainer, Steve Shewan, “Gavin’s brother Darren fought on the last show and raised approximately £1,450 for Muscular Dystrophy. Some over achieve, some under achieve, but as long as they make an effort then it’s fine. To give you a little bit of insight on Gavin and his brother, Darren, they are both big heavy lads. I remember the first night they started. They had to stop every 2 minutes to rest, and both said they were feelin’ a bit like spare parts as they struggled to do anything. Move forward several weeks and their persistence paid off, they now train well and help the novices out.”    

Pictured: Powell & other Funkin Fitness members
One of the intimidating factors that holds people back and stifles their motivation to get fit is the high expectations they place on themselves to join a boxing gym. Many people wish they hard started earlier in life or can’t let go of that fear they are too old, unattractive, or too unhealthy to be in a social setting while trying to get fit.  Head trainer Steve Shewan is very familiar with the insecurities of his club members. “Not everyone at the club has fought or has a desire to fight. Some train only, and if they go onto fight, then that's a personal target they set themselves. I have lads and girls there who have had absolutely no experience of boxing and even though there are several local boxing clubs, they have never been through the doors. In their own words, many have said they wished they done it as a kid and others say they found it too intimidating.”

After many weeks of training and his fundraising efforts underway, Gavin Powell feels he is making progress and almost ready for March 28th bout. “Sure my fitness was terrible. I was always stoppin’ for breathers and drinks of my water. I'm a slightly larger guy anyway, but in the past 10 weeks of me training my fitness level has improved loads. I now pretty much do the full session without stoppin!”

When asked the ridiculous question of how much money would he like to raise for Teenage Cancer Trust, Gavin laughed “I'd love to raise millions for the charity, but that is gonna be impossible. My goal is set at £100. I'm currently on £78. I'd like to hit my target and feel humbled. People have donated to the charity, but at the same time, I'd love to raise a couple of £100 more.”

Pictured: Steve Shewan &  Boxing Champion Robin Reid
Funkin Fitness has also had the support of the community, including former boxing champions Robin Reid and Steve Collins who were referees at several shows. Robin Reid participated in the last White Collar Boxing event and Steve Collins the Christmas before. Steve believes their participation was “great for the girls and guys to fight with a legend as a referee.”  

Family members, such as Gavin’s father, siblings, and wife will be there to support him as he enters the squared circle. 

Though they are aware that boxing can be a brutal sport, they are in Gavin’s corner. “I guess they respect my wishes as a man to do somethin’ for a good cause. My wife’s been really supportive throughout my training period too. I'm 30, so no spring chicken. Most boxers aren’t far of retiring by now, let alone doing it for there first time.”Gavin continued, “Even if my white collar match goes bad and I lose, I'd still love to continue fightin’ for this charity, plus other cancer ones, win or lose. I just want the real winners to be the cancer charities, but all I can do is get in the square circle and give it 110percent.”
Funkin Fitness has not only been able to reach out to the community and pull in the every day guy or gal, but they have also given people the platform to live a healthier life, while helping improve other lives. This empowerment shows in the way that they respect their head trainer Steve Shewan and other club members. There is a real sense of community when you view the videos of their work out sessions and the reviews on their Facebook page. 

Pictured: Steve Shewan & Steve Collns
When Gavin “The Power” Powell was asked how he would want to be remembered after his charity match, he responded “If I'm honest, I'm happy just to be remembered as plain old me. Just a family guy who was touched by a story and felt the need to give a little to a brilliant charity and have support is brilliant, it gives me that extra mile to push myself in training and to strive forward.”

Ever so humble, Gavin requested “Can you give Funkin Fitness Steve a big shout too?  Cause without him these charity fights wouldn't be happening!” I think we can do that Gavin!

7 young people are diagnosed with cancer everyday in the Uk. The importance of charities such as this cannot be overlooked, with the NHS in an ever more precarious state, and funding for cancer drugs being questioned due to their cost. Cancer charities offer hope, where quite often hope seems to be otherwise in short supply.

The next White Collar Boxing event will take place on Saturday, March 28, 2015, at the Studio NightClub in Nantwitch, Cheshire. 

Tickets for the boxing night cost £20 each and are available by calling 07766 644222 or by emailing or visit Funkin Fitness on Facebook

To support Gavin “The Power” Powell, please visit his JustGiving page and donate today to the Teenage Cancer Trust!