Roosters packs a punch for local kids

Two men wearing boxing gloves and masks

Description automatically generated 

Sparring partners: local youths learn the ropes at Roosters 

“It isn’t just about trying to produce world champions. It’s about the community feel, it’s about bringing kids in. With a boxing club it brings all creeds and cultures under one roof.”  

Jeff Coombes, who runs Roosters Boxing Club in the church hall on Paradise Street with his business partner Roy, has lived in Bermondsey all his life. Now 53 years old, he’s seen how the area has changed over the years, but one thing that’s stayed the same is the need for activities that can help give young people a sense of direction.  

Jeff spoke to us shortly after finishing Roosters’ most recent half-term sessions, which give more local youngsters the chance to come down and get a feel for what the club has to offer. He’s pleased to report that some of those who turned up for the first time during half-term enjoyed themselves enough to come back for the regular evening sessions, which run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  

“It’s open to all skill levels,” says Jeff. “People that just want to get fit, no contact or full contact, whatever they choose. Some kids aren’t confident at the start. Boxing’s a good discipline and it gives them confidence in their everyday life as well.”  

Jeff is excited about one 14-year-old in particular who turned up to the half-term club. “He just looked a natural boxer,” he says. “His hands and footwork were perfect, and he’s never done it before. He could be the next British champion, and then his life is set. You never know unless you give them the chance.” 

The club is about much more than trying to unearth stars of the sport though. “We have kids with autism and ADHD as well.  I don’t adjust anything; I treat them exactly the same as I treat any other kids. And really, that’s what they want, they just want to feel normal.” 

The club takes its name from Roy’s nickname as a boxer who had 171 amateur fights, losing just 11 of them and travelling all over the world. “With Roy’s experience and my knowledge of the streets and being brought up in a single-parent family, you’ve got a nice little concoction,” says Jeff.   

Punching bags from a ceiling

Description automatically generated 

Jeff describes Roosters as a typical old spit-and-sawdust gym 

On the premises there’s a boxing ring, punchbags and a circuit area. Sessions cost £5 for kids and £10 for adults, and with  funding from British Land plus contributions from other sources such as Rotherhithe Consolidate and St Olive’s Trust, Jeff and Roy have kept the gym running for the past four years.  

“Kita from Canada Water Connect is really helping us out, funding our half-term club” says Jeff. “I had to take three days off work to do the club” – Jeff runs a flower shop during the day – “which is difficult. The funding allowed me to take a bit to cover my time off and was able to pay a kid who’s been coming in to help me, so he got a little wage.  

“Kita’s a godsend really. She’s always on the ball and she helps us no end. Which is good, because we need it. It isn't just the electric, the water, the running of the club. It’s just keeping your head above water. But if it’s something you’re passionate about and you love it, your heart is in it, you don’t mind, do you?” 

Looking to the future, Jeff would like the club to be secure in the space they’ve got, or even one day to own their own space. “I’ll be very lucky if I can do this until  I’m 73, but if we got a 20-year lease on somewhere, I’d know that we can pass it down to one of our boxers. 

“A dream of mine and Roy’s would be to open it from six in the morning to nine at night. Run it as a community gym during the day, as a business with classes and personal trainers.  But that takes time. You can’t mature a kid into an amateur boxer in a year, it’s a long process.” 

As a lifelong Bermondsey resident, Jeff is positive about the changes coming to the area. “Things have to progress and move forward,” he says. “The area needs to have to things to make it work, to have some structure and be a self-sustainable place. A bit like how I’d like to run the gym as a business so I can keep it open and make sure everything’s working properly – that’s the same with Canada Water.  

“British Land are brilliant – they know how to work with people. They’re working with the community; they’re working with the area. They’re bringing in a lot of money and putting in a lot of infrastructure. They’re thinking about when they leave, how’s the area going to be. It’s an opportunity, and any opportunity is good.”  

Evening sessions at Roosters 

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays

Junior sessions for 8- to 16-year-olds: 5.45 – 6.45pm 

Senior sessions for 17+: 6.45 – 7.45pm 

To find out more, dm Jeff on Instagram at Roosters Boxing Club, or drop in at the gym on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday evening – about 6pm for the juniors, or about 7pm for the seniors.  

Roosters Boxing Club 

Church Hall 

72 Paradise Street 


London SE16 4QD 

All News & Events