A FORMER steelworker who has had a lifetime passion for boxing has set up a new business as a 'box fit' coach.

Niki Wiley, 33, has started his boxing exercise business after becoming the 350th entrepreneur to receive support from the SSI Task Force’s Business Start Up Fund.

The Redcar man, who has been boxing since he was eight years old, was a supervisor at SSI when the works closed in 2015.

He soon found work in a fabrication workshop making beams for cranes – only to be made redundant a second time just six months later.

Now he is developing a boxing exercise gym based at Redcar Amateur Boxing Club, Memorial Hall, Coatham Road.

It is the 350th business to receive support from the SSI Task Force Business Start-Up Fund which has invested more than £3,559,000 and given advice to 627 individuals since the 2015 closure of the SSI Steelworks in Redcar.

“Not for the first time, boxing came to my rescue,” said Mr Wiley, of Redcar, who once supervised a team of crane operators at SSI.

“I’ve never stopped boxing since I was eight years old. Before I found work at SSI, I was part of the National Boxing Academy of England for three years, coached by the country’s best coaches. I won regional titles and made semi-finals of national competitions, but wasn’t quite good enough for the very top grade.”

Niki said he found work with well-known Redcar boxing coach, Frankie Wales, at Redcar Amateur Boxing Club where he developed his coaching skills in schools and with adult amateur boxers.

He will continue to work with boxers at the club, but his own business will focus on boxing as exercise, rather than the sport itself.

“We get a lot people coming in saying they’re really interested in the fitness side of the sport. I have invested in new equipment and the club itself – where my business will be based – is being going to dramatically improve facilities. It’s going to get new changing rooms, toilets and have more space.

“I’ve already started the business and it’s flying, especially the one-to-one training. I’m going to look to having more groups and I really enjoy working in schools too. Frankie has been great and says I can operate from here as long as I like.

“I would say to anyone to give it a go. People can feel a bit intimidated about coming to a boxing club but this is a different feel.

"It’s about the exercise and a little of the sport too and it’s good fun. I’ve never been happier.”

Funding is now available for anyone in the Tees Valley to start out in business – not only former SSI workers. Contact the North East Enterprise Agency on 0191-5166093.