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Mr Isola Akay’s inspirational journey has taken him from boxing champion in Ghana West Africa, to being awarded Membership in the Order of the British Empire for service to the community. As a result of a desire to teach his son the discipline and respect needed in the sport of boxing, Mr. Akay founded the All Stars Boxing Gym in London’s Paddington basin. Developed for those who were excluded from other gyms because of race, the All Stars Club has produced several local and national champions. The Charity helped many disadvantaged kids develop the skills needed to compete both in and out of the ring.
Isola Akay MBE
Embodying the skill, discipline and comradery which is essential in team boxing. The club has produced champions on a regional, national and international level and continues to increase its reputation within the boxing world. However, aside from its sporting accolades, the club has managed to achieve another great success that came about as a product of its existence.
Although creating a competitive boxing squad was the initial goal of founder Isola Akay MBE, something else was realised whilst on this journey to success. For many of the young people involved, including those who did not end up representing the club in boxing, All Stars became something stable in their lives as well as a place to escape the negativity of life in volatile surroundings. If you are familiar with the Harrow Road area you will know it is a place of contradictions, situated closely to an abundance of wealth yet riddled with high rates of drug-related crime, violence and gang culture. Amongst this the All Stars stands defiant, offering the youth a safe environment where not only boxing is taught, but also the skills of discipline, respect and self-worth can be learnt to be carried on throughout life. The profound and lasting effect All Stars has had on people is what makes it unique, more than a boxing club and a necessity in the community.
Having realised the social impact and potential of the club, we welcome our responsibilities and want to push this side of All Stars further to maximise the good we can achieve in our community. Whether this means branching out into other sports, or including educational and vocational aspects, the All Stars will broaden its horizons so that even more of todays youth can become a part of our family.
When Mr. Akay’s ten year old son, Tee Jay wanted to learn to box, he was determined to train him right. He developed a regime that set Tee Jay on a course to become a local champ at the tender age of eleven, inspiring in many of his friends a desire to learn as well. Unfortunately, in 1974 groups of black kids were seen as disruptive and Mr. Akay’s ragtag bunch was excluded from the local gym. Determined to give them a fighting chance, he began training them in his flat and at local parks. As their numbers grew more space was needed but the local government council could only provide a makeshift, part time facility.
Mr. Akay ensured that his club was open to kids from every background because “sports is a kind of activity which has no barrier…it doesn’t matter which colour, it doesn’t matter which background, people are met on equal standards”. And his open door policy paid off. Despite the lack of proper equipment and facilities, Mr. Akay began turning out champions.
Impressed with his positive results, the area’s youth council found Mr. Akay a disused property which would become the Gym and Youth Club. However, to bring the facility up to code, an injection of capital was needed. Wading through the quagmire of bureaucracy, he managed to register the club as a charity, obtained a lottery grant and matching funds from the Sports Council and raised the £150,000 needed for renovations and equipment.
The area around the gym was known as the ‘front line’ in the 70’s and many of the kids were in and out of trouble. In an effort to keep his young boxers on the straight and narrow, Mr. Akay invited the local police to train at the club and “create a good relationship between the young people, our community, and the police”. This inspired move even produced a few winners at the Police Championships.
This community spirit goes beyond the gym and Mr. Akay assures that his All Stars know they have a responsibility to the club even when they exit its doors “to the local residents it was something very positive going on here. We have got a very good reputation…and the boys are well behaved”.
In an area of London where kids are likely to be shut out because of prejudice, Mr. Akay’s forward thinking has opened a club that transcends barriers and really makes a difference “I think I’m blessed with the ability to inspire people, and to get also the best out of people”. His inspiration offers kids, who may have otherwise been victims of their environment, a fighting chance at a better life.