Two Empire boxers win medals at national tournament

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Two Empire boxers performed brilliantly at a national boxing tournament.

On Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th May, Nojus Baranauskas and Matt Lawrence both won medals.

They picked up gold and silver respectively in the prestigious Manchester Box Cup.

Both were referred as young people to Empire Fighting Chance programmes as young people, and now not only compete at a high level, but work for us too.

Proof again of the success of the Empire pathway, and how when given opportunities in a safe and nurturing environment young people can thrive.

Boxers Matt and Nojus at the Manchester Box Cup both started out on education programmes with Empire Fighting Chance

The Manchester Box Cup takes place in Manchester across two days and has both youth and senior bouts over multiple age categories.

Most fighters have two bouts, a semi-final and a final if they get through. Matt competed at senior under 63.5kg and won his semi-final against a difficult south paw fighter, and was narrowly beaten on a points decision in the final.

Whereas, Nojus went straight to a final and won his bout at youth under 60kg, against a much more experienced opponent. 

This was only the second tournament that Kingswood based 17 year old Nojus has ever fought in, and the occasion brought up some strong emotions. He said: “ Warming up before the fight I was a bit nervous as I didn’t want to lose, but when I got in the ring all the nerves went and I felt comfortable.

Getting my hand raised was a great feeling knowing that now I’m a Box Cup champion and I made a lot of people proud.”

Nojus' coach Dalma Divinszki , who works at Empire and was at the event, said: " Nojus got straight to the final and yes drew an opponent with a lot more experience than him, so to see him handling the challenge that well is a great indicator of his progress.

As a coach it was pleasing to see him being able to showcase the results of his hard work," she added.

Matt has more experience and has taken part in a lot more fights, but not quite as big as this. He explained: “I’ve done a lot of big tournaments in the past but this was the biggest, I had a great training camp with my new coach Darren Hamilton (former British light-welter weight champion) so was more than ready.

I won my fight on the first day against a tough and tricky southpaw and cut and bruised him in the first and bit down and had a good tear up to win a unanimous decision.”

Matt and Nojus with coaches Darren and Dalma at the Manchester Box Cup
In the final it was an even tougher challenge. The 20 year old from Knowle continued: “⁠I fought a fellow champion, but I wasn’t nervous at all, more excited, as I’ve done this a few times now. So I was excited to work on things I hadn’t done in the fight the day before, so I boxed to a different game plan and after the fight I was confident in victory.

I felt I landed the cleaner shots and controlled the pace, but they gave it to him, but it was a good and competitive fight.”

Matt was philosophical about it, saying, “⁠I’ve had a lot of fights now, so I wasn’t focused too much on the win, but more on the performance, and to be honest I was happier with my performance in my loss than I was in the one I won,” he added.

Both fighters have been involved with Empire for several years, first arriving when at school having struggled with mainstream education. They both acknowledge the significant impact that the programmes at our Easton based gym have had on them. Nojus said : “Empire in the past has helped me a lot and they believed in me and helped me build my confidence along the way.”

Matt added : “Empire has helped me in every way you can think. And the most important in this situation would be the fact they’re the reason I started boxing, if it wasn’t for getting the opportunity to start on the programme when I was 14, I wouldn’t have achieved everything I have.”

Both now work for the charity, supporting and mentoring young people that were once in the same situation they were. Nojus said: “Now I am working with empire it’s a dream come true and I’m enjoying it every day.”

Matt and Nojus with coache Dalma at the Manchester Box Cup

Matt agreed pointing out, “It’s great working with Empire, I feel like it’s a real full circle moment for me, getting to help and inspire young kids who were just like I was.”

Now turning professional at the end of the year, Matt is testimony to the impact and success of Empire programmes.

We are super proud of them both, and not only are they good boxers, more importantly they are good people, who are now fully equipped and prepared to deal with what life throws at them throughout their respective careers, and now giving back as is the Empire way.

There are plenty of young Nojus’ and Matt’s that come through the gym door each week, and we fully believe that we can support any young person to maximise their potential. 

So as we step up our fight for young people this year, find out more about our programmes here.