“EVERY time my mum would hear a police helicopter or sirens, she would ring me and ask where I was. If I was at the gym, she never had too.”

Bradford’s own Darren Tetley does not hold back when asked how important boxing was in saving his life when growing up.

Walk into any gym up and down the country and they will be filled with stories identical to Darren’s. Kids with no identity, no guidance, no vision, find a haven where they can freely gain these assets.

This has simply not happened in the last 12 months or so due to the rotten pandemic that has carried consequences to all of our lives.

However, last month, the people of Bradford rejoiced at the fact there is finally some sort of light at the end of a claustrophobic, lengthy tunnel.

Lockdown 3 is slowly being brought to a close with everyone hoping June 21 would just hurry up already and arrive.

April 12 was the biggest recent milestone for many. Punters were able to stuff their face at their favourite restaurants and long overdue haircuts were achieved.

Another big restriction which was as popularly lifted was the ability to reopen indoor sports facilities.

People flocked to public gyms, and similarly this has occurred in some cases for boxing specific ones.

Jodie of Huggy’s Gym said: “A lot of the same faces have come back, and we have also welcomed new faces. A lot of men and ladies have been ringing up asking if they can join.

“I feel it is really important that boxing gyms are now open for the community because there are a lot of kids hanging round on the streets, getting into trouble, there is nowhere for them to go.

“We have tried to take a lot of teenagers in, and it is actually turning their lives around. A lot of parents bring them in, three-six months down the line, they are thanking us and say it has made a massive difference.

“Also, for mental health as well, there is a lot of people that don’t have many family or friends, live alone, that are regularly in touch with us.”

Skyler and Alina are two teenagers who enjoy Jodie’s ladies’ classes at the gym, and they are super relieved to be back.

“It (lockdown) has been difficult,” said Alina. “I have been doing this for almost five years now and boxing has been my greatest motivation especially for my mental health. I am glad to be back.

“The people here are amazing especially when they give you opportunities to come in when men are here. It motivates me to train harder because I can show that no one is better than each other, we are all equal.”

Skyler added: “The gym builds my confidence, and it is just a nice environment.

“I have been training at home, doing circuits and sending the videos to Jodie, but nothing beats the feeling of being back in the gym.”

The biggest danger is that children’s interest for the sport may have waned during the off period.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Owner of True Boxing Gym in Girlington, Inzar Ahmed fears some have gone down the wrong path after losing routine and focus.

He said: “It has been really tough during the pandemic with gyms closed and kids have had nothing to do.

“Now that it has opened, we are starting to see some of the kids come back. Not the numbers we had before though, so it has had a knock-on effect.

“It has damaged a lot of lives. We were in the championships and some of the lads were hoping to win a title.

“Kids coming to the gym who were doing really well, I have not seen them. I don’t know if I have lost them to the streets or whatnot, but they have not been back since."

Kevin Rourke, of Rourkey’s Gym in West Bowling, added: “It is hard because we were still paying the rent and the bills with no subs coming in. We have managed to just battle though.

“A lot of boxers have said they are not going to go back to boxing, they are going to find other sports, it is a shame.

“It has been bad for everyone being stuck inside. Boxing does seem to be hindered the most.

“Where we are based in Bradford there is nothing else for the kids to do. They are losing out big time as their championships have been cancelled, it is terrible.”

The Karmand Centre on Barkerend Road is also back open under the latest England Boxing guidance which states there is still a limit on the number of people in the gym at a time and socially distancing, except for pad work, is in place. The good news for under-18s is that sparring is allowed, but this is not the case for adults yet.

Though, head coach Dave Carris is mystified at why amateur boxers are not allowed to return to competition.

"It is disgusting," he said. "Everybody else at grassroots level in football and rugby they are still playing.

"It has got nothing to do with England Boxing because they have kicked up a fuss. Everybody is in the same boat.

"We are still going but it has ruined my club."

Luckily, for pro boxers they could still use the gym during the third lockdown due to their ‘elite athlete’ status.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tetley has fought twice in the past 12 monthsTetley has fought twice in the past 12 months

Bradford’s own Darren Tetley, Jermaine Springer and Amin Jahanzeb have all been able to get out since boxing returned from a four-month enforced hiatus last July.

Unfortunately, the former lost both of his bouts since, but he is still grateful that he was able to make a living in a time when thousands of boxers in the UK have been forced to sit on their laurels. One of those is another star from the city, Zeeshan Khan.

Since joining the paid ranks in 2018, Central Area champion Khan had nine fights in 21 months on the small hall circuit.

However, soon as the pandemic hit his career was tipped upside down. With only the televised shows financially viable, the featherweight has been left in limbo.

The odd offer has come and gone with nothing of note materialising. Instead, Khan has just been on a never-ending spiral of attempting to sharpen his tools.

This has come in great form, at least, sparing and working with the likes of Josh Warrington at the former world champion’s self-owned gym in Leeds.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Zeeshan Khan has had to make do with sparring top class fighters like Josh WarringtonZeeshan Khan has had to make do with sparring top class fighters like Josh Warrington

Nothing can replicate that feeling on fight night though and that is something the 29-year-old is desperately craving.

“I am so happy for them (the aforementioned trio), but there is a bit of jealousy because I want to be out there as well.

“The desire is always there. If the offers were there, I would take them straight away. I would fight anybody.

“My motivation does ebb and flow, I am not going to lie. You get them spurts when you are flying and everything is perfect, then you get them little dips when you get depressed and think nothing is going right.

“I have signed with MTK Global and they are massive. I am going to keep training and hopefully something will come up for me.”

Tetley, Khan, Springer and Jahenzeb are all former pupils of Carris' at Karmand. The first fighter in that list insists how the boxing was just an afterthought in his younger days.

Tetley added: “I have always said Dave was more than just a trainer to me, he was like a father figure in a sense. At the gym, he was like the dad.

“The day after I was excluded from school, I was asleep and felt a tap on the shoulder. I opened my eyes and Dave was stood there. Boxing saves people. As a teenager, I was on a slippery path, doing criminal stuff away from the gym.

“I was training at Karmand centre three or four times a week, and that was keeping me out of trouble, it was one big family in there. These kids now have not had that.

“I am lucky that professional boxers could train but what about these kids? Some might not have any friends outside the gym, some might have a bad home life, the boxing gym is where they can escape that.

“You are in there making friends and learning about other people’s cultures and religions. Race makes no difference; you are all in there to box.”

Carris has been involved in the sport for 37 years and the 58-year-old has never witnessed times like these before.

He said: "It has been proper hard. Every year coaches say they are going to give up, but they cannot because it is in their blood.

"Me, my mum, and my father set the gym up and they were strict with the lads. I am the same, I will not have any messing about. I will give them two chances after that they are done.

"If you do not have discipline, then you can forget about boxing. Lads know they have got to sacrifice.

"There are a lot of lads who have packed in the boxing, but I still keep tabs on them to make sure they are alright. A lot of it is guidance because there are a lot of one parent families.

"There are no bad lads out there. I call it a train track, they just get derailed, and you have got to push them back on."