Danny Webster from the Evangelical Alliance explains what the...
Growing up, I had no Christian background or any great guidance about how to approach life. I witnessed a lot of violence from an early age. I got kicked out of school when I was 14 because I became violent and a bully. By the time I was 16, I was hanging around on the street, doing drugs, drinking lots and going to nightclubs. I started fighting and was getting arrested regularly and becoming known to the local authorities and police.
At 18, I was very violent and on a one-way street to prison. I started supplying drugs. My father, who had boxed for England, said to me: "No more, you are now going to fight in the ring."
I became a good boxer quickly. In my first fight I beat my opponent in less than 30 seconds! I fought Joe Joyce, who competed for England at the Rio Olympics, as well as world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. Through the guys from the underworld, I started boxing unlicensed and became London’s heavyweight unlicensed champion. I had such potential, but got more involved in drug use and dealing. I couldn’t get out of the dark hole I’d got myself into over the years. No one showed me the light. I was totally out of control.
SEEING THE LIGHT
After being arrested for serious assault, I bumped into Gary Flynn, an old friend who coordinates Street Pastors in Richmond. I told him what was happening in my life and he invited me to a men’s breakfast, which I was reluctant to go to. At the breakfast there was a talk about anger management and I could feel the words absorbing into my mind. We talked about God, the Holy Spirit and the Bible and everything started to make sense. I couldn’t believe I had never heard this before.
A week later, I attended a church service and had an unbelievable, supernatural, overwhelming encounter with the Holy Spirit. I came away from there a different man, ready to do God’s work. I started regularly attending Church of the Living God in Twickenham, and their pastor Zac came alongside me and taught me about Jesus and about grace.
SHARING THE LIGHT
As soon as I believed in Jesus, I instantly knew I needed to reach out to young people. I was just shocked no one had ever told me. I always wanted to teach boxing and I started to think I could use it to help kids. But my real plan was for salvation for young people. I knew this was what God wanted me to do and that my testimony would grab the hearts of troubled kids.
I started to help boxing clubs in Twickenham, but one day I was outside a bakery thinking: "I’d really like my own club" and I had this really strong thought: "Phone the Methodist church in Butts Farm." It was like a command. So I called Rev Vicci Davidson, who said: "This is wonderful. I have been praying for someone to come forward as we have just lost the staff for our senior youth club." As soon as I believed in Jesus, I instantly knew I needed to reach out to young people.
"As soon as I believed in Jesus, I instantly knew I needed to reach out to young people"
The church voted to let us use the church hall and to start with we just had hand pads, no equipment. We needed a boxing ring, which would cost £1,600, and I didn’t have the money. One morning God spoke to me and said: "Just ask 15 brothers and sisters for £100 each." So I messaged people and everyone started sending cheques and the Methodist church hugely helped us in raising the funds, so we bought a brand new boxing ring within three weeks! Now we’ve also got bags on the wall, I’ve done my Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) coaching course, so I’m a professional coach, affiliated with the London ABA, and we have four boxing trainers, including my dad and Vicci’s husband Mark.
I stop kids on the street and say: "Stop messing around and come to the boxing club. I’ll teach you how to box." And we must have had 50 or 60 children from the estate come now. It’s really lively on Friday and Monday evenings. The church has set up a juice bar, so after the boxing kids get free fruit drinks. I play Christian music at the beginning and end of the sessions.
It’s not the intention to start talking about God; the intention is to bring them off the street and give them training, even if they don’t have the £3 for the session. Boxing is a tool to bring kids in and eventually share the gospel with them. Not many will compete, but boxing is good for their minds to keep them stable and fit, and the club has brought the community in; it’s rebuilding it.
There are a few teenagers who have given their life to the Lord. One lad said that the church thing wasn’t for him and then because one of the young guys from my church has started boxing and they’d become friends, he invited him to church and the other lad said: "Yeah," so I picked him up and we went to church. Then one day when I forgot to take him to church, he took himself there and gave his life to Christ when I wasn’t even there!
Another kid started coming to the club who had never been to church before in his life. I was giving my testimony at the church where the boxing club is and he walked in! He tells me that he now prays and he regularly attends the Methodist church.
Butts Farm amateur boxing club has only been going six or seven months. Imagine when it’s been going three or four years! Vicci is co-chair of the club and its chaplain. Recently, she had a long conversation with some of the boxers about how to pray, and provided those who wanted them with Gideons Bibles. God’s given us a great ministry. It brings people in, there’s love and guidance in there and boxing is just a tool. My testimony is nowhere near finished. God keeps adding to it all the time.