Empire Fighting Chance boasts a rich and storied history that spans more than five decades. It all began in 1972 with the establishment of the Empire Amateur Boxing Club on Newfoundland Road in St Pauls, Bristol. This groundbreaking club was one of the first places in the city where people of different races came together to train, forging new and lasting bonds between communities.
Under the guidance of our ambassador Chris Sanigar, the club went on to produce a long line of champions, including British, Commonwealth, European, and World titleholders. Building on the club's rich heritage and social capital within the community we are proud to carry on this legacy through Empire Fighting Chance, a leading sport for development charity with an inspiring team of coaches, therapists, and mentors.
Where it all began
Empire Fighting Chance's journey started back in 2006, when Martin Bisp and Jamie Sanigar, the founders, witnessed two youths selling drugs in a park adjacent to the Empire Boxing Gym located in inner-city Bristol. Martin, who was managing and coaching at the amateur boxing club voluntarily, and Jamie, who was running the professional boxing management and promotions business, felt compelled to address the issue.
Determined to make a change, they approached the young men and invited them into the gym for a training session and a discussion about the challenges they were facing. The two young men enjoyed the experience and brought their friends along the following week. In just six weeks, their small initiative had grown into a movement, with fifty young people attending sessions five nights a week.
As word of their work spread, schools began to approach them to work with pupils who were at risk of being excluded. The small team's success with these groups led to collaborations with Pupil Referral Units and Avon and Somerset Police, further expanding their reach and impact and thoughts turned to whether this all could become something much greater.
Building an 'empire'
Over time, we evolved from a small boxing project into running the UK’s largest non-contact boxing school engagement programme. Shortly after reaching this milestone, we asked ourselves what we wanted to do next, and it became clear we needed to “give as many people as possible a fighting chance to succeed”. So, in 2013 we created the boxing charity, Empire Fighting Chance, to help us achieve our ambition.
In 2015, with the support of Bristol City Council and Sport England, we moved into our new home at The Mill on Lower Ashley Road in Easton, providing us with the modern space and resources we needed to continue to grow and thrive. We have since won several awards and welcomed visits from royalty, all while expanding our reach into South Wales and throughout England via a growing network of amateur boxing clubs.
Today, we are proud to deliver four psychologically informed non-contact boxing programmes, empowering and inspiring over 5,000 young people every year.
We invite you to explore our timeline below and join us on our journey.