A FORMER boxing champion is set to open a giant new gym in a bid to bring the sport back into the heart of the community.
Castle Boxing Gym in Spittal Street Lane is the brainchild of Bradley Welsh, chairman of the Amateur Boxing Association Scotland (ABA), as part of his mission to boost fitness and self-esteem across the city.
There is nothing for kids to do. They derive self-esteem from social media not sportBRADLEY WELSH
The former car park, which opens as a gym on Monday, boasts seven boxing rings, 160 training bags, indoor running tracks and 10,500sq ft of training space.
Mr Welsh stressed that the venture was not aimed only at future champions and boxing enthusiasts, but anyone aged “from six to 66” keen to experience the benefits of exercise through the “medium of boxing”.
However, he is particularly keen to work with young people in “marginalised areas”, offering fitness and health classes in places such as Wester Hailes, Muirhouse and Gilmerton.
He said: “There is a vacuum and there is nothing for the kids to do. They derive their self-esteem from social media not sport.
“This will help with the obesity problems and with mental health.
“It is about empowering people to get fit and to create self-esteem for young people that isn’t driven by stealing cars and motorbikes. We are going to roll back the years and make boxing part of the community.
“This is about-facing to keep fit and to engage with people.”
The fledgling project has already attracted interest from the community, with around 300 people attending a recent open day ahead of the official opening next week.
Under the plans, the Amateur Boxing Association will use the venue to launch a series of free pop-up gyms at community centres across the city.
The initiative will be funded not only by Castle Boxing Gym but also through big charity amateur boxing events such as Edinburgh v Newcastle on Saturday, which is set to be attended by a crowd of 2500.
Mr Welsh, who also runs Holyrood Boxing Gym, believes fitness is key to boosting self-control and self-esteem.
The new facility is based in a former indoor car park owned by City Wall Properties, a firm which believes it is better to have a building in use than standing empty.
Mr Welsh won the British ABA lightweight title in 1993 which led him into the professional game.
His career at that level was short-lived but he continued boxing and trained at leading gyms in New York and Detroit.
The Amateur Boxing Association Scotland now has 20 gyms around the country, including seven in Edinburgh.