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Making a huge difference for the better in a heavily-populated region can be hard to achieve in sport, of that there is no doubt. With various charities, fundraisers and competition in the mix, making your chosen cause stand out from the rest can represent a real challenge. But for Alex Springer, co-chairman of St Pancras Amateur Boxing Club [SPABC], that glass ceiling is something that has been easily smashed – and some.
The former fighter, 32, has been a prevalent figure within boxing circles in and around London for almost two decades due to his involvement with SPABC. Taking over ambassadorial matters before he had even turned 21, Springer is now an influential member of the team’s hierarchy, looking to change lives in the capital for the better.
“I started when I was 13 years old, and I’m now 32,” Springer told Express Sport. “I was boxing there until the age of 19 and then took the role alongside my father to be co-chair and run the club as such.”
It has been a fruitful 19 years at the club for Springer, who has seen his club grow for the better since he was hoisted into the hot seat. As per a stunning 18-minute documentary premiere which aired in April, Springer says that just 11 years ago the club was based in an old industrial shed.
However, a new boxing gym has been built since, which came under the spotlight in local circles back in 2012 when the French Olympic Boxing team trained there ahead of that summer’s events in London. Champions have been bred throughout the 140+ years that SPABC has been in use; that is not something that comes as a surprise to anyone. But as Springer says, it is not just winning that makes the club special – it is wanting to make a difference in people’s lives.
HitClub UK has raised over £600,000 for charity since its establishment
“We’re not really a membership kind of club, but in the boxing team there are about 20 regular boxers in seniors and about 15 juniors who are carded up ready to compete for the gym,” he continued. “We know everyone by first name and we’re very close as I’m a young guy and always in the gym training with them.
Jermaine [Dhilwayo] is now looking for work, and he tells me directly – there is no hierarchy – so we can quickly work with these guys as soon as they feel they are ready for work and we can get them that next job. But on an average night, there are 50 or so juniors who take part and three classes from 4pm to 9pm, with 40 people in a class.”
Philanthropic matters should always make a person feel proud, and rightly so if they notice that their hard work is having an effect on the desired targets. That has been the ethos for some years now, but Springer and his team believes that further progress could be made by other means of income rather than just the club itself – which is where HitClub was born.
A white-collar event hosted every year, HitClub gives people the chance to train, spar and ultimately go toe-to-toe with their opponents on a bigger stage. 16 boxers fought in the 2022 event, with families, friends, colleagues and anyone else interested coming down to watch them.
And with £176,000 raised, it has taken their total to just over £600,000 in five years – an incredible feat. And Springer believes that the event can exponentially grow year upon year, giving more and more back to the charity where possible.
“Absolutely. With every new person that takes part in it, they bring a crowd of around 30 to 40 people with them and donate to the charities, which is a snowball effect,” he said confidently. “It is mainly a crowd in and around north west London where the gym is based and where the majority of the fighters come from, but now we have Essex boxers, Chelsea boxers and people across London.
“The word is definitely spreading and it is growing every year, which is fantastic. I’m proud, but it is what I should be doing! There is a level of proudness of course, but also a level of the fact that is my job to do. I’m happy and lucky I am in a position to be able to do it.
“I had expectations that the event would have five, six, seven hundred people per year attending to raise around £200,000 per year. It is within my expectations, but it is also fantastic at the same time. I think the key thing is getting the new crop of boxers every year, because without them there is no event. They are the ones who sell the tickets and the ones who fundraise, so it has been fantastic.”
HitClub is a 16-fighter strong event which aims to raise money for those undervalued in London
The event has been supported by professional boxers such as Conor Benn and Dereck Chisora amongst others, adding to the need for publicity that charities need in order to grow, and ultimately help others in their long-term life aspects. And when asked if other London-based stars such as Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte could be reached out to, Springer believed he would love to be involved with the stars if they wanted to show their support.
“Of course! They are fantastic professionals and we would love to reach out to them and gain their support amongst the UK boxing heroes such as Tyson Fury.” The charity that HitClub partnered with this year is Circle Collective, a charity that supports young people with plenty of hurdles in life to overcome their struggles and put them into permanent, life-changing work – totalling over 600 so far.
The club ran a scheme with Circle Collective in 2022 to be their ‘headline’ charity, putting Springer in touch with CEO Turly Humphries. And it was the duo’s vision, missions and ambition that saw them compliment each other superbly, with Springer praising Humphries for her efforts in helping the young London community. “That’s a great question,” Springer said when asked why Circle Collective was their chosen charity.
“We got put in touch with them through a trusted advisor who fundraises a lot for charity, and my first conversation was with [Circle Collective] CEO and founder Turly Humphries. I then went to meet her at the Lewisham hub and saw exactly what they do, met the young adults that they have helped, and that sold it to me. Actually seeing what they do and meeting young people that they have helped really sold it to me, in that the money was going to the right causes and the right places. I also liked that they are a small-to-medium-sized charity, with Turly running it like a business.”
HitClub crowds have risen exponentially over the last few years
Springer detailed his close relationship with Humphries and Circle Collective in general as the reason why they worked so well together. “It just gives us confidence that we see where our money is going. I like tangible things, and because it is a big amount of money, we want to see that it goes to really good use. Every single charity is an amazing charity, we’re not slating any charity – but we bought into their vision and how they run it. There aren’t lots of layers in the charity, it seems quite level,” he said.
The work that Circle Collective have done is evidently brilliant, with the company helping in and around 100 people per year to get into work. But whilst Springer admits the work they have done is absolutely incredible, he is not afraid to help more charities with more pressing matters if and when they desire it the most.
“Absolutely. We are not wedded to one charity, we are our own enterprise and we will choose which charities we believe need the most money at that exact time and who we can have the most impact helping. We do love Circle Collective, and we hope to grow with them and support them next year – but we are not wedded to one charity.”
So what next for SPABC, and what next for HitClub? The 2023 event is set to grow dramatically, and even though Springer remains grounded in what he believes his charity can achieve, the former boxer is more excited not only about the fiscal rewards, but for the event in general – claiming that the ‘energy’ in the room has been phenomenal in recent years. “Every year grows, we feel – the energy in the room this year was just phenomenal. But in 2019, our last event before COVID-19, it was fantastic as well,” he added.
HitClub, despite the ‘fights’, remains amicable and friendly
“When I first met Turly, I said ‘we want to raise a lump sum for you,’ which ended up being around £50,000. I think she looked at me as if to say ‘am I being serious’! The thing is we do what we say, and charities do take us seriously, and we are growing. [We want] the same but more! We want to raise more money, we want to get more people down, we want everyone to have a great experience, we want everyone to go home safe and we want to keep on growing awareness for much-needed causes and charities, and whoever they are. We want to raise awareness for them and to help them in whatever they do.”
There is much work to do across London in terms of unemployment, but Springer should serve as inspiration for anybody wanting to help out. You can watch SPABC and HitClub’s spectacular premiere video here.
Credit: Alex Springer, Daniel Stephen Homer, Yannis Tsakiridis, Manos Kountouris.