YOUNG boxers can follow in the footsteps of a North-East world champion thanks to a new academy.

IBF bantamweight world champion, Stuart Hall, is set to launch a new boxing academy in his home town of Darlington, offering a BTEC Sport course in boxing.

Run in conjunction with the Martin Gray Football Academy and Darlington College, The Stuart Hall Boxing Academy plans to open its doors in September next year and will give Year 12 students the chance to gain a qualification equivalent to three A-Levels.

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As part of their studies, students will train daily and receive advice from the 34-year-old world champion, who defends his IBF title against Liverpool fighter Paul Butler at the Newcastle Metro Arena on Saturday, June 7.

Mr Hall, who is taking a break from training to launch the course at Darlington College this week, believes it will help provide opportunities for youngsters that were not available when he took up the sport, and which might have kept him on a straighter path to his world title.

He said: “When I was that age, I was always off the rails, got back on again, then fell off again, and got back on one more time. I’ve seen it and done it.

“But if there had been something like this for me, I know I would have done it and been able to stick to studies and learn about everything about boxing.

“That’s what the BTEC offers. There are a lot of kids in the North-East into their boxing and this is a chance to train five days a week, study the sport and work with a world champion.

“Boxing gives you discipline, so they will be disciplined in the gym and in their college work. And at the end of two years, they get excellent qualifications and could go to university.

“I have kids now and I am always drumming into them the importance of education and studying. It’s one thing I learned from my time at school.”

Successful students from the Martin Gray Sports Academy, who have taken a similar BTEC course in football have since signed for university places, scholarships in America, and gained employment in the sports sector.

Mr Hall said: “When Martin approached me, I jumped at it. This is my chance to give something back to Darlington and its young aspiring boxers, and I’m humbled to have been given the opportunity.”