When Idris Elba visited South Africa to shoot a film, he was struck by how the lives of township youngsters were transformed through a local boxing club. This was the impetus for his new series Idris Elba’s Fight School, which premieres on BritBox South Africa on 16 June 2022 – which, fittingly, is Youth Day.
Elba says: “When you go into the township, you’re like, ‘Wow, this is how people live and how they survive.’ And the crime rate within the townships is high. I went to the township and there was a boxing gym there. These guys who had set up the fight school lowered the crime rate and got kids literally out of trouble. The trainers there really saw the value of giving these kids a place to come, train and stay away from crime. That was quite inspiring to watch and it stuck with me.”
This experience inspired Golden Globe winner Elba, the star of Luther (available on BritBox) and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, to embark on a life-changing and highly personal project, harnessing the transformative potential of boxing. Having also found purpose and direction at an inner-city boxing gym in his youth, he was determined to pay it forward.
Elba decided to set up his own fight school back home in the UK to empower young adults facing challenges such as poverty, crime and mental health issues. In Idris Elba’s Fight School eight young Brits are put through an intensive course of boxing training to arm themselves with discipline, ambition and mental resilience – tools that will empower them to change their lives for the better.
Working with some of the UK’s leading boxing coaches and life mentors, the recruits train twice a day, six days a week – with the aim of competing in an official amateur fight at one of the world’s most iconic boxing venues York Hall (London) in the space of just five months.
“During my own experience of fighting, there was a level of peace I was able to achieve.” Elba says. “Boxing requires you to switch off all the noise and focus on the moment, a skill that I believe all people need, especially younger people who need direction. Looking back at my own experiences, I’m reminded of how powerful boxing can be for disadvantaged young people, giving them a sense of purpose. This was the inspiration behind Fight School.”
Says Chanika (29), one of the participants, who joined the project to help her deal with personal trauma: “Learning to box was intense; it is not easy. You need to find a deeper purpose, but I did it and I loved it. Boxing is both mentally and physically stimulating. It gives you a purpose and drive to achieve something you don’t think you can do.”
Idris Elba’s Fight School is described by iNews as “a very personal project to turn young lives around” in which the actor, singer and activist gets hands-on to mentor his young recruits. Catch it on BritBox South Africa from 16 June 2022 – and be inspired.