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From boxing in the backyard to creating a sports park

by Luqmaan Rawat
Jafar Franks with his champion boxer

Tshepong – Muhamad Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, all these people had a love for boxing. Although it is a sport not many thoroughly follow like soccer. It is a sport that brings people together and one man is using it to empower the youth in his area.

Jafar Franks, Founder of Future Champs Club, saw a need in the Tshepong community and decided to fill it. A man who is passionate about boxing, as well as winning various titles, he took his knowledge of the sport and is now trying to pass it on to the youth.

The beginnings of Future Champs Club

Football is a well known and loved sport. Everyone enjoys playing it. However, Franks wanted to do something different, he wanted to give the kids something different. For this reason, he set his mind and heart on teaching the kids boxing. Although he had no gym, he decided to turn his backyard into his boxing grounds.

“It started from the back of my yard. When I started, I just put some sand in some bags, and I tied it up for boxing bags. I always believe when you need to start something, start with what you have. I started with what. When the guys came for training, they could barely even punch because the bags were too hard. Nevertheless, we went on training with it.”

As his organisation started to grow, he started getting into contact with other boxing organisations. They started to sponsor him with new gloves and equipment. With the kids seeing the new equipment, they became excited, and more people started to join.

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Moving to greener pastures and building a boxing ring

As his students grew in number, it became impossible to train them in his backyard. From there they moved to the streets until they realised the streets were not big enough for them. To his luck, Franks found a patch of land that was vacant and decided to use that space, to build a boxing ring.

“I decided I need to reach more people. There was an open space that we took over, so to say. We took over the space and we created our own boxing ring. I believe I’m really good at recreating and I believe to do things with what you have. I made my own boxing ring with four poles around and I put the ropes on and that’s where we started training.”

After the ring was put up, the gym gained membership and since 2014 it has just kept growing. Franks believes that champions aren’t made overnight. He already has a success story with one of his boxers who won the national championship in 2018.

Building a space for not just boxing

Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the most well-known bodybuilders of all time, has an event called the Arnold Classic. It hosts multiple fitness events under one roof. This inspired Franks to create his own space where multiple sports codes were present.

“I guess I’ve seen a space for that [indoor court]. I cleaned the space up and put football poles. From that day, everyday people started coming to play … I have a netball court and a volleyball court as well. I have an eleven aside on the far end as well. This is my way of bringing the community together and for them to come and enjoy the sports park and play field.”

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The impact of Frank’s work

The impact Franks has made is like getting hit by Mike Tyson, it has not gone unnoticed and left the community stunned. He has managed to create a safe haven for the children in the area. On top of that, his boxing club has created hope in his boxers that with hard work and dedication, they can be the next Ali.

“For these boys they have that hope in their heart that one day they’re going to be champions. They know it won’t happen now. It takes hard work, it takes dedication and it takes time. I see the boys looking forward to becoming champions one day.”

Parents and the community have welcomed the space he has created. They are overjoyed that their kids have a space like this to spend their free time in. They know their kids are in a safe and healthy space, said Franks.

Building a park

While most people would be content to throw in the towel and stop there, Franks was not. He rolled up his sleeves and was determined to create, not only a sports park but an actual park. He dug and planted 53 trees. Although only three have grown to maturity, it has not dampened his spirit to build a play park within his sports park.

Franks has created an environment that has taken kids off the street and into the ring. Even though he started off with next to nothing, he strived like great boxers to create something. His dedication has not gone unnoticed. In the process of creating a champion boxer, he has created a sports park that benefits the entire community. A champion of the people.

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