Troubled Youth Find Their Way in the Boxing Ring

BOYS can learn a lot about “self-discipline and courage” in the boxing ring, says a Sydney priest who runs a fight club.

Reverend David Smith, or Father Dave, as he is known, says the martial arts are notorious for teaching thugs how to fight. But when taught properly, boxing can have a hugely positive impact on the lives of troubled youth, he says.

“It’s one of the last forms of competition that teaches all the right attitudes in terms of self-discipline and courage,” he  says.’s Real Heroes Walk Away campaign against senseless violence advocates for personal responsibility when it comes to senseless violence. There is nothing heroic about bashing someone on the street.

Father Dave has tutored “countless” youth, who are dealing with violence and drug issues, in the boxing ring at his Dulwich Hill church.
He says boxing helps the troubled youth establish positive relationships with authorities.

“You’ve got kids who only ever associate authority with abuse,” he says, while adding that this changes when they enter the ring with a teacher who does not abuse their trust.

“It sets up a whole set of relationships which I think often fill enormous gaps.”

Boxing has helped beat down similar barriers elsewhere.

At 6am sharp, three days a week, anywhere between 35 and 75 young men get together to learn how to box in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Redfern.

It’s part of a program started by the local police station and indigenous leaders to help boys on the verge of committing serious offences from becoming criminals. It’s changed boys’ attitudes to the local cops – and the boys’ own futures.

“It’s not ‘they’re picking on us’, anymore, it’s ‘we know him, he’s talking to us for a reason’,” explains superintendent Luke Freudenstein.

The Redfern cop shop has tracked how the program has affected 15 of their boys, Supt Freudenstein told, with some standout results.

One man, 20, committed 28 offences before he joined the program. He hasn’t committed a crime since.

Donning a pair of gloves and beating a bag can also be an effective way to manage anger.

Out at the Blacktown PCYC, Brad Martin, a senior constable who has taught scores of kids boxing over the past two years, reckons the sport is a great way for boys to let out their rage.

“They can let out their frustrations on the boxing bags, instead of some innocent person on the street,” he said.

Father Dave agrees: “It’s opening whole new horizons for young people,” he says.

Read Heroes Walk Away