6 March 2024

Boxing mentor invites Jervis Bay community into his corner in fight to reopen club

| Katrina Condie
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Group of boxers

Boxers are keen to get the club up and running again. Photos: Jervis Bay Boxing Club.

Justin O’Connor is hoping the Sanctuary Point community will throw its support behind his plans to reopen the Bay and Basin Boxing Club at Clifton Park.

Residents within a 400-metre radius of the site are being asked to comment on the proposal to construct a 400-square-metre shed alongside the existing Men’s Shed.

Head boxing coach, Justin previously operated the boxing club for 17 years until it was forced to shut shop during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he is keen to get the not-for-profit gym up and running again.

He said closing the gym, and turning his back on people when they needed him, was one of the hardest times of his life.

“That’s why this is so important to me. I let my people down and I will never do that again,” Justin said.

“I train people of all ages and circumstances for free, four days a week, wherever we can get space now.”

Justin also offers private boxing lessons to help cover the cost of teaching young and disadvantaged people to train and compete.

“I try to help people as much as I can with anything I can help with,” he said.

“Teaching boxing is my skill and I love working with people, especially people with disabilities. I love seeing their faces when they realise, ‘Hey, I can do this’.

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“It’s the best feeling in the world to see what you and the sport of boxing can do for others.”

Justin said that for the past 19 years, he had been able to cover the costs of keeping the club running through his business Red Telephone Box, but he was still trying to financially recover post-lockdown.

“We are hoping not only for community backing to get the gym approved, but also help to get her up and running again,” he said.

“Lots of people always say, ‘I wish there was something I could do to help projects like this’ – well, here’s their chance.”

He is asking people to visit Shoalhaven City Council’s “Get Involved” page and support the Bay and Basin Boxing Club proposal.

“We need as many as we can get to send a clear message to council that our work is important and that people support our ethos,” Justin said.

two boxers at training

Anyone can learn the sport of boxing in a safe environment. Photo: Jervis Bay Boxing Club.

“The Men’s Shed being right next door would, in my opinion, be an awesome way of having young people connecting with older generations, and the opportunity for mentoring would be a happy coincidence for our members.

“I feel as though we could all work together on that site, as communities should for a better living outcome for the people of the area.

“I would just like to keep seeing the good things we have done in the past for people into the future and that’s why I’m taking up this fight for them. Now I just need the community in my corner.”

Justin said the new head injury awareness studies being taken on board by Boxing Australia had brought huge changes to training and competing methods.

“It’s become more suited for all ages and skill levels, so boxing has now become a safer space for everyone wanting to try it,” he explained.

He wants to create a safe space for people who want to try the sport, and also hopes to “make a difference in youth crime in the area”.

“Drug, alcohol and substance abuse issues are on the rise in our area, so we are hoping to steer people of all ages away from this kind of lifestyle and engage in something more positive for mind and body, not to mention the benefits to the community.

“I would like to see bullying a thing of the past and just a more confident and considerate generation.

“I would like to see discrimination of all kinds removed and everyone being able to participate in something regardless of ability or location.”

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Shoalhaven Council resolved in October 2023 to provide in-principle support for Clifton Park as the preferred location for the new Bay and Basin Boxing Club facility, based on investigations undertaken so far and subject to further consultation.

At the same time, it asked staff to engage with the community on the proposal and to prepare a further report “outlining the results of engagement activities and further recommendations in relation to the establishment of facilities at Clifton Park to house the Bay and Basin Boxing Club”.

The council’s director of city lifestyles Jane Lewis is encouraging residents to comment on the proposal.

“Council’s decision-making will be guided very much by the feedback residents provide us as part of the engagement process,” she said.

“If there is to be a financial impact, it will need to go back to council for further consideration.”

The Bay and Basin Boxing Club approached the council in 2022 seeking land in Sanctuary Point on which it could build the shed and associated infrastructure, including parking, access pathways and landscaping.

The community survey is available on the council’s Get Involved page until 5 pm on Tuesday, 5 April.

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