'Trouble child' found boxing and his whole life changed
Precieux’s first contact with Palace for Life Foundation was in 2013, when he attended a community football session at Selhurst Park aged 13. Three years later, the self-confessed ‘trouble child’ found boxing and his whole life changed.
At 16, Precieux was kicked out of sixth form and was targeted by an older gang member. He was used by the gang as a ‘county lines’ drug dealer and got involved in trafficking drugs to rural towns and cities. Having delivered cocaine and heroin to areas including Bournemouth, Ashford and Kent for the gang, Precieux was threatened at knife point by a rival gang.
Speaking about this time in his life, Precieux said: “I was always going missing from home or school and worrying about my mum and when I look back, I didn’t like the direction my life was going in. When you’re young and getting involved with dangerous groups, it makes you feel like a big man, but that’s not the way to do it.”
In an attempt to take himself away from this situation, Precieux joined Croydon Amateur Boxing Club, where he met Adam Ballard, founder of Gloves not Gunz, a community organisation that aims to tackle youth crime and violence. Meeting weekly in Norbury Park, the group gives young people a free fitness class, followed by a mentoring session on important issues such as gangs, weapons awareness and healthy relationships.
Gloves not Gunz is supported by Palace for Life Foundation, with investment from the Premier League and Professional Footballers’ Association. Director of Community Development Soye Briggs explained: “We have been working with Gloves not Gunz since 2017, supporting their fantastic boxing initiative that runs in one of the most deprived areas of Croydon. This kind of provision is absolutely vital in showing young people they have alternative choices and opportunities to engage positively in their local communities through sport.”
Precieux was incredibly grateful for the group’s support when he started. “When I came to the gym after getting in trouble, Adam and Ben [Eckett, who also runs the sessions] didn’t judge me, they met me with open arms. They understood my situation because they came from the same background.”
After his involvement, Precieux wanted to give back to his community and volunteer with the group to help other young people in the same situation. However, at first Precieux would often struggle to turn up on time and was disorganised, which affected his preparation for the sessions.
The Foundation and Gloves not Gunz staff worked with Precieux to help him understand the importance of being a role model and setting good examples for young people and he soon adopted a more professional approach; turning up before the session with everything he needed.
Foundation Community Development Officer Jamie Broughton said: “Precieux showed us that he was ready to take on more responsibility, and he began to lead small groups and warm-ups at sessions. We could see his confidence growing during this time and he started to deliver his activities in his own style.”
Five years after attending his first community football session, Precieux completed his boxing activator qualification in February 2018, and noticing the improvements he had made in his commitment, mentality and confidence, Gloves not Gunz rewarded him with a job as the organisation’s first Youth Mentor.
Precieux is now one of the coaches delivering the Palace for Life Foundation community boxing programme in partnership with Gloves not Gunz, and is also running boxing sessions at local schools to help tackle issues like youth violence. In the future, he is looking to gain a Level One qualification in boxing, which would allow him to work in boxers’ corners at fights and conduct sparring sessions, and he also has ambitions to box.
Moving away from gangs and crime, he is now looking forward to further education, starting at the University of Queen Mary in September 2018. However, Precieux is still grateful to Gloves not Gunz and the Foundation, and is planning on continuing his coaching there: “I love taking the Thursday sessions as seeing the kids being interactive, getting active and at the same time learning valuable life lessons makes me happy.”