By John Keast
The boxing boys file in just before 5pm.
They are keen, high-fiving trainer Cornelius Grobler.
He says: “Introduce yourself. Shake hands.”
Each boy comes forward: “Hello, my name is …”
That pleases Grobler and Lisa Anderson, a trustee of the Mid Canterbury Youth Charitable Trust which runs the Mid Canterbury Boxing Academy.
They want these boys to be polite, be focused, to be able, when the time comes, to look an employer in the eye.
They want them to have confidence in themselves and in their ability.
This is a boxing academy operating from a large converted shed behind the New Life church in Tinwald, but it is also much more.
It is based on the training facility of Billy Graham in Naenae, Wellington. He visited the Tinwald facility recently and was impressed.
Says Mrs Anderson: “We needed to follow Billy’s vision; someone who had high standards.”
Enter South African Cornelius Grobler, a young man who, in New Zealand, proved to himself he had real boxing potential.
He had boxed in South Africa, but was bullied in a gym.
So he left, then took it up again, then left.
When he came to New Zealand, he resumed, linking with a Burnham trainer.
He is now the New Zealand welterweight champion, the Mid Canterbury sportsman of the year, and has Golden Gloves titles.
Next year, he may pursue a middleweight belt.
In Tinwald – and Mr Grobler is making Ashburton his home – he shows his other skills: a rapport with young people.
Says Mrs Anderson: ” He connects in an exceptional way. He has a great rapport with people. We have known him for three years. This is his dream job.”
To date, the academy has 85 boys on its books and can handle about 100.
Training is regular. On Fridays, the classier young boxers get extra training.
“Billy Graham said, get it going and they will come, and that is what’s happened,” Mrs Anderson said.
Mr Grobler, a youth worker at Ashburton Intermediate by day, said some of the boys just wanted to have fun, and others wanted to box.
In the mix are three sets of dads and sons – a great way to build a bond – and around 15 boys show real potential.
Boxers or no, to Mrs Anderson, they are all champions.
“Our absolute care is about creating champion young men, instilling values, that you don’t have to mirror what your mates do or bad things at home.
“Cornelius is the boxing guru, he gives them the confidence to be physical; it’s a great confidence boost, that’s what I like to see.
“We have such a cross section of boys. It’s about cross-pollinating, mixing and mingling, taking the best and blending it,” Mrs Anderson said.
The rules at the academy are tough.
Each boy is given a Passport to Success, a brochure setting out what is expected of them.
If they learn it all, they get life membership of the gym.