A TEAM of young boxers are hoping to follow in the footsteps of world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis after fighting off the threat of the Sars virus.

Spennymoor Boxing Academy officials were considering cancelling a trip to Toronto because of the virus, which has killed more than 20 people in Canada.

But after travel agents reassured them, the youngsters are looking forward to staying at heavyweight champion Lewis' amateur club.

They will spend a week training and fighting at the Waterloo Regional Police Boxing Club from Friday.

Club secretary Paul Hodgson said: "Everyone was devastated when we told them the trip could have been cancelled. A similar thing happened after September 11, but fortunately both times things have fallen into place."

The 3,500-mile journey will be the first trip outside the region for some members, so Terri Hughes, of Namaste Holistic Caf in Spennymoor, has offered them relaxing pre-flight head massages.

Director of coaching Robert Ellis said: "It has taken a year to plan this trip and everyone is really looking forward to it."

The club is also sending 30-year-old Mark McGuinness, a firefighter at Spennymoor Fire Station, to the Fire Brigade Games in Barcelona later this year.

Durham University students Charlotte Fitzpatrick and Ben Robinson have started training with the club. Mark will be the university's first entrant in the Student Games at the end of the year.

London-born Lewis moved to Canada as a youngster and represented his adopted country in the 1988 Olympics before returning to England as a professional.