Familiar with the name Bevis Allen? You may have seen his name rolling in the credits at the end of a movie, or perhaps heard it mentioned in pro-boxing circles. Bevis is the Boxing Development Officer for London Sport, where you can untypically find him in the office but more typically out and about across London highlighting how boxing can change lives.
How did you first get into Boxing?
I think I always knew that I would end up boxing one day. From an early age the whole family used to watch the big fights on the TV, usually involving Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
My first experience of a boxing gym happened when I was about 11 years old. My friend Tony, who was good at Judo, decided he wanted to try a tougher sport. So we both went down to a gym in Tottenham which, at the time, was the nearest boxing club we knew. Tony and I both decided we would not tell our parents as they would have told us not to try boxing. So we went to the club, had a great session then at the end we collected our bags (left unattended in the changing rooms by the way) only to find all our money had been stolen! We had to walk 8 miles home, which, for a couple of 11 year olds took forever! It was long before the days of mobile phones, therefore no way of contacting our parents and letting them know where we were or what had happened. Let’s just say when I got home, I wish I hadn’t! I was banned from ever going again. I merely waited patiently until I was in my late teens when I did not need parental permission and took up boxing anyway!
How long have you been working at London Sport and how did the job come about and what did you do before?
I joined London Sport on 22nd July 2014. I must be one of the longest serving staff members now!
Most of my working life has been spent in the travel industry working for TUI (formerly known as Thompson Holidays). After 25 years I took voluntary redundancy and ended up starting my own fitness business delivering boxing sessions, weight-management, running and training actors for TV, film and theatre roles involving boxing. The running I enjoyed, but after a while I started to attract too many runners. I remember one day I had to run four times in a single day as the clients expected me to accompany them to help keep them motivated. It was exhausting and was definitely not sustainable in any way!
I then took about 18 months off from my business to do some consultancy work for a boxing club. When the consultancy contract ended, I really struggled to attract new clients in the way I did before. A guy who I knew who worked for England Boxing one day rang me out of the blue, saying he had found a job that he thought I would be really good at, so I applied and here we are.
How did you get into coaching?
I believe that everyone has a ‘calling’ so to speak. Something that they excel at and are simply born to do. Coaching boxing for me is that one thing. And yet, I got into it totally by accident! I ended up boxing for 12 years, until I sustained a spinal injury which ended my career. I was 31 at the time, and to be honest, I probably would not have continued boxing much longer anyway but it was still tough as I didn’t leave the sport on my terms, which I always said I would.
How did I get into coaching though? Well, a few years after I retired, I was working in Hanover, Germany on a 3 year project but used to work there during the week and come back home for the weekend. One weekend I bumped into an old club-mate and he said I should come down to the boxing club and visit my old trainer. Around 9 months later after my project in Germany ended, I came down to the club and they said they needed a hand coaching, so I came the next evening and the next and the next. I took my Level 1 coaching qualification a couple of months later and here we are. I ended up taking my Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications and in 2013 decided to try my hand at the professional side of boxing.
What is it about coaching that you love?
What I love most about coaching is being able to take a raw beginner who has just walked into the gym, does not know anything and being able to shape and mould them. I think it’s the transformation really. I’ve trained multiple National Champions, seen my boxers take part in every major international tournament and won professional titles but still despite all that, the thing for me is seeing people change, whether that is becoming more confident, master a new skill, being more disciplined or turning away from crime. But it is the changes that you can make as a coach; helping someone be better than they are now.
And what is coming up for some of the people that you coach?
I am currently working with one professional boxer, Jeff Ofori. Jeff is doing really well and won the Southern Area title at the end of 2018 after only being a professional boxer for just over a year.
Jeff is boxing in the semi-final of the MTK Golden Contract Tournament on Friday 21 February at York Hall. The fight is being shown live on SKY Sports and live in the USA on ESPN plus.
So, tell us, what’s so great about boxing?
Lots of things! For me, boxing as a competitive sport is one of the purest sports there are. It teaches you so much about yourself and reveals so much. Recently I heard someone say that it is the only sport where you cannot lie or kid yourself. From an amateur/grass roots level, it helps so many young people. It helps with confidence, self-discipline, focus, reduces anti-social behaviours, health and overall well-being. Boxing, while there are dangers, can do a lot of good. The professional side of the game is perhaps slightly different as at that elite professional level, I’m seeing that it is a business, an entertainment business, so perhaps not as fun in the traditional sense.
Does it have the power to change the world?
Yes, I believe it does. I mean, no sport can change the world but boxing can help change a young person who has nothing, no focus, getting into trouble and help that person change. And you can only change the world one person at a time.
And you are developing a programme that can be used to help prisoners? Tell us about the sports themed resilience training programme…
The three of us who are working on the project came up with the name. The project started some 15 months ago (yes it has taken that long!). A senior manager from the Greater London Authority and I were at the House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group for Boxing and the theme for that day was ‘Reducing Re-offending’. After the meeting we went for a coffee and decided that we would try and do something better than what we had just heard.
Fast forward 15 months and we have just launched the pilot. The pilot will work with prisoners with 6 months or less remaining on their prison sentence (once they are vetted for suitability), support them get a job, and be integrated back into their community through local boxing clubs, mentoring and support. The overall aim is once they leave prison, they never return because they can get meaningful employment, make new connections through the boxing clubs and start turning their lives around.
Why can’t it be called boxing in prisons?
Well, there is no actual boxing taking place in the prison. The Ministry of Justice guidelines does not actually allow boxing or any other form of martial arts to take place inside a prison. We are running four workshops (with boxing as a theme of course) then some physical exercise sessions after that. The whole mentoring and employment side takes place once the prisoners are released.
What is a typical day like for Bevis?
I can honestly say that no two days are alike. My days start early as I am a morning person. I have two breakfasts, one after I get up and one when I get either into the office or wherever I am working that day. I usually have a couple of meetings a day; 50% of my time involves club support with England Boxing so I travel all over London and within the M25! I also train Jeff early morning and evenings when he is in training camp. I don’t usually get home until around 9.30 pm, so long days.
Is it true that you don’t eat on Friday’s??
I started fasting once a week from the beginning of 2019. I did it mainly for two reasons; as a form of detox and to help focus my mind. Last year I managed to do it every Friday from January to around the end of June. It then fell by the wayside for one reason or another. I decided to start again from this January. It is still on a Friday as it is the best day for me to do it, but the day may change as the year goes on.
Lastly, are you destined to be a movie star? Are we going to see Bevis on the big screen? What is this we hear about your work in the film and TV industry?
I have been in a couple of films as a film extra. Plus, I have collaborated on a play, three boxing films and provided technical boxing advice for a new series on HBO which is underway soon. I have offered my service to play the part of the boxing coach…let’s see if the phone rings!
What a rock star! Bevis Allen, you really do rock!
To read other inspiring stories from our residents, why not take a look here.