Boxing in Croydon: Impact Academy


By - Monday 24th June, 2013

Neil Makwana reveals an authentic way for Croydonians to get fit and give themselves a challenge at the Impact Academy, owned and run by locals in contrast to the oft-seen chain gyms


One on One

Photo by El Marto. Image used under Creative Commons License.

First of all, let me confess: I’m a returning Croydonian, having grown-up in Thornton Heath then moved to Sutton, due to my parents admitting to the superiority of that borough’s state schools (sorry –  it had to be said). Having moved back, post marriage and as an older, wiser and less athletic thirty year old, I have scoured the borough for a decent boxing club having taken up the sport after tearing a knee ligament training in karate eighteen months ago.

Croydon should have a strong pedigree in boxing, given its similarity to parts of East London – a powerhouse of British boxing. For example, the borough has a large youthful population, significant pockets of deprivation with youngsters looking for after-school activities, underprivileged backgrounds, and a culture of quality coaching. There is also a history of successful boxers with strong roots in the borough, such as former world champions Wayne Alexander and Duke McKenzie.

So I chanced upon the Impact Academy, a 650 square metre fitness and martial arts centre, in a central location just off the southern section of Croydon High Street. The boxing class, currently run by Bruce Smith on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, focuses on boxing fitness, heavy bag-work, one on one pad-work, and some sparring for those who want it. It is a tough but fun and welcoming class where all feel welcome.

Women, children, and men, of all shapes and sizes, attend and get taught to a level that is far deeper than anything you would get in a boxercise class in a chain gym. Bruce focuses on good technique first and foremost and is a firm believer in perfecting this before ever stepping into a ring. For those who want to focus on fitness only, there is a Saturday morning class which emphasises that aspect of the sport and is ideal for those looking to tone up to a washboard stomach or simply sweat out the Friday night hangover.

The classes for youngsters are either free or heavily subsidised and are a good outlet for those who may otherwise be spending time out on the streets

Bruce’s relaxed and approachable style of teaching and his authority come from his strong boxing and mentoring background. He was a boxing champion in the Army, in the 1st Queens Regiment, and fought at the highest level in Germany while stationed there for many years. Upon his return to the UK, Bruce worked for various London councils in youth sporting roles, particularly with those from difficult backgrounds.

The Impact Academy continues to host classes for children from local schools recommended by the council and Bruce continues his good work providing a structure and discipline to those who have been expelled or perhaps face difficulty in their family lives. The classes for youngsters are either free or heavily subsidised and are a good outlet for those who may otherwise be spending time out on the streets.

Bruce works jointly with Shane Sobers in the evening boxing classes, a man with an eye for detail (20 press-ups if your stance is wrong!), befitting of someone studying law.  Both Shane and Bruce have styles that complement each other well, and class attendees are lucky to have two high quality coaches that really care about what they are teaching. This is not always the case in many central London white collar boxing gyms, which have become popular in recent years and often consist of nothing more than a member of staff supervising participants who slug it out with no correction or advice on technique.

The boxing class is great, but Impact Academy provides the highest level of instruction in Tae-kwon-do, kickboxing, and kettlebell training, as well as the more cerebral, but no less challenging, disciplines of yoga and pilates. The founder of the Academy is Donato Nardizzi, an 8th Degree Tae-kwon-do instructor who is an 8th Dan grade.

I would highly recommend anyone to visit the Impact Academy. Those who are looking to get fit but find weight-lifting dull and running on a treadmill a tedious chore will find the range of classes and quality of teachers to be refreshing.

Neil Makwana

Neil Makwana

Neil currently works in the City of London in financial services and has been an on and off Croydon resident since birth. He has returned and now lives in Purley. Despite this, he is an interesting person and is passionate about cricket, boxing, history and economics.

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  • cpmatthews

    Not to mention as well that full body workouts are much better at building muscle and increasing fitness that isolated exercises! Good to see this happening in Croydon.

  • George Harfleet

    When I was about 12 I used to train in the gym behind The Gun pub and great local boxers would also pop in there to train and ‘spar’ with us kids. Most memorable name was Albert Finch, a superb champion boxer. Ron Pudney, Mark Hart, Pat Stribling are other tough fighters I recall. Used to go to Sir Philip Games Boys Club, as did lots of other young lads did in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Great days. Fit as the proverbial flea. Never amounted to much of a boxer but it was always good clean FUN.

  • Loretta Ekotolola

    I want to know the details for this impact academy