A former professional boxer has launched his own club to give young people in Watford "more direction".

West Herts Amateur Boxing Club (ABC) opened last week in St Albans Road and is being run by head coach Saud Hafiz.

Mr Hafiz, who is from Watford, has worked with Watford Borough Council to open the facility to "raise aspirations" of people living in the town.

Mr Hafiz was a well-known amateur boxer who boxed for England and went on to win two national amateur titles. He then turned pro and signed a Sky Sports contract with Frank Warren, where he was undefeated.

Harrow Times:

Saud Hafiz. Credit: Eric Johnson

He said boxing has been a part of his life since he was 13 when he pursued the sport after the loss of his dad and said it remained his crutch by helping him with his mental health.

He added: "I was originally in denial about my mental health. I lost my dad when I was 12 and it was a hard life.

Harrow Times:

Elected Mayor Peter Taylor cutting the ribbon with Saud. Credit: Eric Johnson

"Even from today I have demons within me and I ask why my dad went so early but I suppose that part of life made me who I am today."

He now wants to help young people use boxing as a tool to improve their mental wellbeing.

He added: "Boxing gives you something constructive to do rather than sit at home in front of the TV thinking about 100 things.

"The club can help you get out of your comfort zone and meet new people who may be going through the same thing as you."

Mr Hafiz said another main goal for setting up his club is to steer people away from knife and gang crime by offering boxing as an alternative.

He added: "Obviously as a parent it is my job to provide but I didn't have that, I felt it was taken away from me because I lost my dad.

Harrow Times:

Peter Taylor and Saud in the gym. Credit: Eric Johnson

"In my late teens I ended up in gang culture and with the wrong type of crowds - I had role models but they were the wrong ones because there was no direction.

"It is a completely different ball game for young people with gang culture and knife crime. People are suck on their phones and parents are begging them to do something physical.

"In my day parents hoped it rained because children were playing outside too much. I think the young generation today need direction and that is my aim."

Mr Hafiz has also worked with Youth Connexions and in Watford schools as a behaviour support manager. He said he would often be faced with difficult situations where children were dealing with drugs, anti-social behaviour and substance misuse.

He added: "I was haunted for years and there are so many people out there that probably have different issues but are finding it hard to let go. This hub will give them the chance to come in and let go of themselves.

"It helped me when I was in my early 20s, my life turned around and I started reaping the rewards.

"There is a need. Boxing is on the up and people want to hit a bag.

"I want to tell young people to put your knives down and pick up a a pair of gloves.

Harrow Times:

Peter Taylor hitting a punching bag. Credit: Eric Johnsonsau

"Kids and young people want to do something exciting - they want an adrenaline rush. Boxing is an alternative.

"It is something thing to do when there is nothing and it can help keep kids off the streets."

Mr Hafiz said the club has interactive games and gym equipment such as ropes and monkey bars.

He added: "It is more than boxing - it is a community hub, we want men and women to come and take part in classes."

The club runs on a membership basis and is in search of volunteers to help run classes. Mr Hafiz said guidelines are also put in place to help maintain social distance.

For more information or to register your interest, contact info@westhertsabc.com