Top boxer Jon Jo helps troubled pupils make a fist of schooldays

DENABY champion boxer Jon Jo Irwin once used his fists to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal... now he's turned his hand to helping troubled youngsters.

The former British Featherweight Champion is fighting the corner for children who have been expelled or are struggling at school - by joining the team at Open Cast, a specialist youth centre in Doncaster.

Jon Jo - who hails from Denaby - is mentoring the youths and training them in joinery, fitness and boxing!

The ex-boxer had initially volunteered his services at Open Cast last year after hanging up his gloves to start a window and conservatory manufacturing and installation business. He enjoyed his time at Open Cast so much he is now there full-time.

Said Jon Jo: "I was ready for a new challenge and wanted to get into working with disengaged young people - to show them that whatever their background or academic ability they can achieve."

Jon Jo trained as an amateur boxer - boxing 25 times all over the world and captaining England on five occasions.

He won the British ABA Featherweight Champion title and defended it three times to win the Lonsdale belt outright. In 1990 he won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games.

Jon Jo is now using his boxing skills as a tool for developing self-discipline, and anger management in his young charges and his talents have impressed the youngsters.

One student, Kieran, 14, said: "It's mint having a famous boxer showing us how to box."

And Craig, 16, said: "Jon-Jo's the fittest out of everyone - he can do 180 press ups in one go."Jon Jo added: "It's important that young people have someone they can trust and talk to - someone who won't let them down. It's so rewarding to see a young person who is angry, disruptive and negative, develop confidence and self worth and start to feel more positive about the future."

"At Open Cast, we work with some of the most disengaged young people in the borough. They've faced many barriers whilst growing up including being excluded from school and it's our job to take them under our wing and provide all the support, confidence and skills they need to get back into the mainstream."

Open Cast's founder, Angie Dowling said: "Jon is a highly valued member of the Open Cast team. He has a very special ability - he can relate to young people who've had a shaky start. He knows what it's like to have to work hard to achieve and his success as a professional boxer gives him that extra edge. The young people think he's fantastic and they really look up to him - he's truly inspirational."