Helping veterans in Greater Manchester thrive in civilian life


BoxWise launched at the start of 2020 and is using the sweet science to help women and disabled people as well as those who formerly served their country on the front line.

Veterans in Greater Manchester are being supported to make the often-difficult transition from military to civilian life with the help of boxing.

BoxWise is using the noble art to help those who have previously served their country on the front line with a 10-week programme.


The sessions are strictly non-contact, concentrating on the fitness and technical skills of the sweet science, and participants also get to take part in follow-up courses to help them gain skills they will need for life outside of the armed forces.


BoxWise also runs programmes helping women and disabled people and has attracted a high-profile Greater Manchester supporter in the form of former pro boxer Anthony Crolla, who hosted the recent veterans’ programme at his gym.


What is the BoxWise veterans’ boxing programme?

BoxWise was launched in January 2020 by founders Rick Ogden and Nick Maughan in London and the programme quickly spread to Manchester.


The organisation now runs a number of different boxing programmes, including the veterans’ 10-week one which has just been run at Fox ABC, the gym in Oldham where Manchester-born champion Anthony Crolla who held the WBA lightweight title from 2015 to 2016 initially cut his teeth.


The sessions are free, equipment including water bottles and T-shirts are provided and all the tuition is done by accredited England Boxing coaches.


Veterans putting themselves through their paces on the BoxWise programme

There is also absolutely no sparring (actually fighting other people) involved, with the sessions involving people working individually on their skills on the punchbag while enjoying the camaraderie of being together in the gym environment.


In addition BoxWise provides one-to-one mentoring support and progression routes to help veterans enter employment or further education, with people who have gone through the programme moving into fully-funded vocational courses in areas such as catering, boxing coaching and personal training.


Rick explained why BoxWise felt the armed forces veterans would be a good fit for its boxing programmes.

He said: “Veterans have a significant risk of homelessness and mental health issues on their immediate transition into civilian life.


“BoxWise can give them a sense of purpose through training, which they are used to, while providing that networking opportunity around employment.

“The Army recruits heavily from the north of England and areas of high deprivation and it provides that stable family environment that isn’t necessarily always there.


“People can struggle with that when leaving the military, that sense of identity. That is a big part of what we are trying to create, a sense of belonging, meeting like-minded people.


“We’ve just graduated our first veterans programme in Manchester and it has been a runaway success. We hope to develop this relationship and run other ones to create a regular programme. It would be good to run this three or four times throughout the year.”

Anthony Crolla and Rick Ogden

What else has been said about BoxWise?

Not only does BoxWise run in Chadderton at the gym where Anthony Crolla trained but it has also gained something of a fan in the professional fighter who stepped into the ring 45 times, recording 35 wins, seven losses and three draws.


Crolla said: “BoxWise is important for a number of reasons. Certainly, with the younger adults, it gets them working in a team and puts them in an environment where they can enter further education or jobs.


“But more broadly, what this course does is offer more than boxing training. It gives you vital skills that can be put into practice in everyday life, whether that be emotional control or working in a team.”


It’s not just veterans who are benefitting from BoxWise either. The scheme, the flagship initiative of the Nick Maughan Foundation which works to empower disadvantaged young people through sport, also runs sessions for young adults aged 18 to 25, young people with behavioural issues, women who have been through domestic violence or health issues and disabled people, as well as putting on a shorter course aimed at younger people to reduce anti-social behaviour in the school holidays.


What does BoxWise think of working in Manchester?

Rick says Manchester is a huge part of BoxWise’s plans for further expansion of the services and programmes that it offers.


He said: “The big thing is the diversity of Manchester, the diversity of talent in the city and the depth and breadth of people’s journeys and stories, their lived experiences.


“There’s a real ‘can-do’ attitude and solid work ethos in Manchester and the young people have a real positivity about the future and their opportunities."


Published on Manchester World, 3rd July 2022