Paul Wins Elite Athlete Bursary

Tue, 31/10/2000 - 00:00

While the stars of blockbuster biopic ‘The Fighter' have an anxious wait to discover if they've knocked out the competition at this weekend's Oscars ceremony, one North East boxer has already proved his performances in the ring were enough to land him a much-coveted prize.

East Durham College student Paul Archer has been on a winning streak ever since his father first took him to a boxing club at the age of 11, as a way to focus his energy. Now, nine years on he's turned professional, caught the attention of leading UK boxing promoter Frank Maloney and was recently awarded an Elite Athlete Bursary from the University of Sunderland's sports department.

The Easington-born boxer has won the majority of his 50 fights at amateur level and floored the opposition at Rainton Meadows last December in his first fight at professional level.

However, turning professional can prove an expensive affair with medical bills, licences and training costs all hitting a young boxer in the pocket, but with the support of the university bursary the 20 year old is now hoping to continue his journey to greater glory at a national level.

And in addition to his bursary, Paul has the support of a close-knit team of experienced professionals backing him, from one of the UK's most respected coaches David Binns, to Maloney, who was promoter to World Heavy Weight Champion Lennox Lewis, to his manager Phil Jeffries - Sunderland boxer Tony Jeffries's father.

"The support I'm getting right now is incredible and achieving the Elite Athlete Bursary just proves that all the hours of training and effort you put in are worth it," explained Paul, who is a student at the College's Peterlee Campus studying a Foundation Degree in Sports Coaching, delivered in partnership with the University of Sunderland.

"When I first started training at the gym I never expected to get in the ring and fight, I just went along to use up all the extra energy you have when you're that age. But after winning my first fight at age 12, I got a huge buzz and the boxing took off."

Just like "Irish" Mickey Ward in The Fighter, Paul boxes at light welter-weight, and his brother Ian, 24, was inspired by his younger sibling to become a boxing coach, but that's where the comparisons end. The rocky relationship of brothers Mickey and Dickey Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale) depicted in the Hollywood hit movie is a far cry from the very grounded, supportive and loving family which Paul and Ian have been raised.

In fact it was Ian who handed Maloney a DVD of Paul's fight at the Senior ABA Championships, held last March at Peterlee Leisure Centre that led to a surprise phone call from the promoter and put the student on the path to a professional boxing career.

"My family are incredibly proud of what I achieved and they fully support the career I have chosen," said Paul, who's inspired by the fighting styles of Roy Jones Junior and David Haye and is part of East Durham College's successful Boxing Development Centre.

"I don't want to put a goal on my career such as British or World ‘Welter Weight Champion' just yet, of course I'd love to reach this stage, but right now I would like to see how far I can push myself. Having people like Frank Maloney and David Binns behind you helps keep you disciplined, motivated and organised."

It's this discipline to his sport that Paul believes has helped him juggle his academic studies around the strict training regime he follows up to three times a day.

He said: "This is one of the most demanding yet rewarding sports there is and I don't ever feel like I'm missing out when I see my friends go out drinking down the pub on a Friday night and I'm in the gym training. I'd recommend boxing to any parent; it's great for a youngster's confidence and has the potential to keep kids off the streets, focussing their energy into something positive."

Christopher English, Programme Leader for the Foundation Degree in Sports Coaching at the College, has known Paul for four years from the standard BTEC programme where he achieved a BTEC National Diploma in Sports Science to where he is now as a full-time student on the Foundation Degree.

He said: "Paul has been a pleasure to teach. When you come across him you would never think he could possibly be a boxer let alone a very talented boxer with a bright future. He has always been a quiet and reserved person who is polite and considerate, however, once he's in that ring then you see a very different side of him.

"He's always been fully committed to a future in boxing, however, it is testament to his character that he has always put his education first, where he has consistently achieved good grades, has a very good attendance record. He is now on course to achieve the Foundation Degree in Sports Coaching and he is keen to continue his education at the University of Sunderland where he hopes to achieve his full degree in Sport & Exercise Development."

He added: "Being a full-time student can be a struggle financially, therefore receiving this Elite Athlete Bursary will certainly help and develop his progress in boxing. It's instances such as this that only strengthens an already long standing, close relationship between East Durham College and the University of Sunderland and long may it continue."

Paul's next fight is due to be on April 9, as a Sky Sports show, at Peterlee Leisure Centre.