A former world champion boxer who now works to save young people from a life of gang and knife crime is worried that coronavirus restrictions could pull them backwards.
Jawaid Khaliq MBE, of West Bridgford, became the first British Asian boxing world champion, winning the welterweight title.
Since his retirement, he has been running boxing classes at The Sycamore Centre in St Ann’s and has worked with hundreds of children, some involved in crime.
The scheme is called Down knives, Gloves up.
But he fears that limited tuition and time spent with them due to coronavirus restrictions could pull them back into the lifestyle he has tried to draw them away from.
Mr Khaliq told Nottinghamshire Live: “It has been a struggle. I work with social services and the classes give them belonging, keeps them off the streets and teaches them discipline.
“Some of them have been involved in knife crime or gang crime or have been victims and scared to go out. We build their confidence up.
“Some have been stabbed really badly and are lucky to be alive. We’ve also had people who carry knives and baseball bats.
“They could be eight or nine-years-old and getting into a bit of trouble or children who are 13 and just getting into gangs who look up to the 15-year-olds.”
He said it is important he remains a positive role model in their lives during the coronavirus pandemic so they don’t revert back to a life of crime.
He has tried to run zoom sessions or technique classes over social media but he says nothing beats doing face to face boxing classes with them.
“It is very tough,” he said. “I am having to keep in touch with them on text or phone because it is difficult, I could lose them.
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“I was talking to them in the parks when we were allowed but we are not allowed right now. They can be easily de-motivated and get back into the wrong crowd.
“We have had some for a few years now and I can see the change in them. When they come here three to five times a week they are out of trouble.
“But when they are away they can slowly drift back into it.”
He said already parents have contacted him to say their child is starting to smoke or get themselves into trouble without the safety net of the club.
Mr Khaliq said the service his team are providing is just as important as “front line services” and he should be able to at least work with young people in parks or an outdoor space.
He said: “We can get 18 people here at a distance and we have ventilation. It is sad we are not allowed to have them here. I am very worried.
“I have been coaching 16 years since I retired. I am passionate about boxing and working with kids. I can influence other young people. I am starting to realise I am in their lives because some do not have parents.”
He said before the coronavirus pandemic hit Nottinghamshire, he would train up to 30 young people under 16 and up to 30 adults five nights a week.
“If they are lost, we are going to have a big problem (after coronavirus). Not only getting into the wrong crowd and gangs but there is also the health issues.
“We need to keep them coming and keep them involved.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping said he understands the problems facing the club.
He has just committed funding of up to £250,000 to support groups just like Jewaid’s.
There will be cash grants of up to £25,000 to charities and non-profit organisations to help young people at risk of getting involved in crime.
Organisations have until midday on Monday, January 11, to apply.
He said: “I have visited the club and it has done some really good work with young people, some of them have been involved in crime.
“I think there is a real danger that people like Jawaid who have built relationships with youngsters could disappear in the future.
“But he is a strong character and I think young people will keep in touch with him. I am confident he will continue to prosper.”