This week, The Big Issue takes a close look at the new British boxing film Jawbone. Written by and starring Johnny Harris, the film boasts a knock-out cast – Ray Winstone, Ian McShane and Michael Smiley – as well as Barry and Shane McGuigan acting as consultants and music by Paul Weller.
Big Issue vendor Maurice Richards (above), who is profiled in the magazine, used to be an amateur boxer himself.
“When I was in my 20s I had quite a few fights as an amateur,” Richards says. “I was based at Neath boxing club in South Wales. It’s great discipline for a young man.”
The way boxing clubs can offer support and guidance to youngsters is a theme through the magazine. An in depth interview with Johnny Harris talks about how boxing saved him, Ray Winstone explains how his days in the gym shaped his character, while Barry McGuigan and Michael Smiley discuss the impact it had during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Also featured is 19-year-old Callum Myles. Aged 11, he had already been arrested multiple times and on one occasion had dislocated a teacher’s finger.
“When I was young I mixed with the wrong crowd,” Myles says. “I used to get in a load of trouble. School was just not for me.”
The police brought in George Turner, who works for Carney’s Community, a charity that turns around the lives of young people by getting them to engage with boxing. It was founded in the memory of Mick Carney, who Johnny Harris credits as saving him, as well as countless others.
“The first ever time George took me to the gym I never looked back,” Myles says. “The gym was a piece of me. You meet the nicest people ever, all supportive of each other and I decided to dedicate myself to boxing.”
Outside the ring, Myles attended courses and is now a scaffolder, working on the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station. Inside the ring, he has just turned professional and has a 100 per cent record so far – winning his first pro fight by a KO.
While he used to avoid school at all costs, Myles now goes back to work with young kids, some of whom remind him of his younger self. “I’ve gone into schools, given training sessions, putting them on the pads. People gave to me so it’s time for me to give back. George has called me and said, ‘Callum, can you come down to the centre and talk to the kids because they think we’ve never been there’. I tell them, I used to be like you and look where I am now.”