Marcellus Baz: BBC Unsung Hero in need of new gym in 2017

By Andrew AloiaBBC Sport
'He's changed my life so much, I can't explain it'

A boxing coach is being forced out of his gym just days after winning BBC's national Unsung Hero award.

Tenancy issues at one of the Nottingham gyms used by former gang member Marcellus Baz mean he will have to leave on 31 December.

Baz, 41, won the award on Sunday for work he does with vulnerable children across the city, but said he has quickly come back to "grim reality".

"We have some big plans, but we need a permanent home," Baz told BBC Sport.

Baz, whose hopes of a pro boxing career ended at 23 when he was stabbed through the hand by a rival gang member, won the BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero award in recognition of the free classes he provides to young people at his Nottingham School of Boxing.

He runs sessions at various venues across the city, but the St Ann's base he is set to leave is among his biggest with more than 50 young boxers attending sessions on Sundays.

In emails seen by BBC Sport, the boxing club which allows Baz to run sessions has been threatened with eviction by the Renewal Trust - a community regeneration charity that established the centre - because of issues surrounding third parties who are using the space.

When contacted, Renewal Trust executive Cherry Underwood said: "This is is a matter between Marcellus Baz and his landlord and the Renewal Trust hopes it can be resolved positively."

The boxing gym owner, when contacted, refused to comment.

Nottingham City Council, who have not had any involvement in the tenancy issue, have offered to find a new venue.

A spokesman for Nottingham City Council said: "We're aware of this situation and are already exploring possible alternative premises which could be suitable for Mr Baz to continue his work with the community in St Ann's."

'I want to remain part of the community'

Since picking up his trophy at the 2016 Sports Personality of the Year awards in Birmingham, Baz has been offered the use of other spaces in Nottingham.

While he said he appreciated the offers, he said he needed a gym in St Ann's where he has had a presence for the past 20 years.

"I've been working with kids there since they were four or five years old and now they have grown up and this is the time where they need the most guidance," Baz said.

"I've worked with families and got to know the community - I feel part of it now.

"I really hope the local authority can support us with a place - with a permanent home we can double or quadruple what we are already doing.

"There is so much more good we can do - I want to bring in volunteers from areas of deprivation, up-skill them, get them working towards employment. I want to run more workshops, improve on what we are already doing.

"The one obstacle that we need to overcome now is having that permanent residence."

'An amazing night'

2016 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Unsung Hero

Baz said he was still "in a daze" after being named Unsung Hero and sharing the night with Prince William and host of sports stars and celebrities.

"It was an absolutely amazing experience," he said.

"It is a night that will be with me for the rest of my life. To be around the kind of people that I was, I'm still really just in awe."

Baz hopes his win, after his sporting dreams were ended by his involvement in gangs, motivates others to strive for better things.

"I was in a real bad place, a real dark place and you feel you can't get out of that - it's dark and gloomy," he said.

"This is a message to other people that were or are in the same situation as me - you can have aspirations, just believe in yourself, have drive and determination. If you do that, you can reach for the stars."

Marcellus Baz with Prince William
Marcellus Baz with Prince William
Marcellus Baz with Becky Adlington and Adam Peaty
Marcellus Baz (centre) with Olympic gold medal-winning swimmers Becky Adlington and Adam Peaty
Marcellus Baz with Nicola Adams
Marcellus Baz with two-time Olympic flyweight boxing champion Nicola Adams
Marcellus Baz with 2012 Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill
Marcellus Baz with London 2012 heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill

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