This was the first time I’d ever been inside a boxing club, so I was a little bit apprehensive. As I got closer to the ring, I saw two combatants sparring hard. But the first thing I was aware of was the noise. The grunt of the boxer as he lets rip and the thudding whoosh through the air as the tanned leather hits muscle.I watched from a safe distance before this week’s guest and manager of Neasden Boxing Club, Xavier Miller, wandered over from ring side to greet me.
Xavier was fascinated with boxing from a small lad, but his own career was cut short due to injury. He was a special needs teacher in London for many years before he followed his first love, and he now coaches over 16 professional boxers and encourages all who come though his doors—not only to achieve the best in boxing but to become the best person they can be.
“I felt so comfortable with the way he was teaching me that I became obsessed with it.”
Xavier was interested in boxing from a young age—he was always watching boxing videos on VCR, brushing up on news, and then one day he found out there was going to be a boxing club at his school. He was the only one to attend, and they shut the program down. However, the man running the program said he could teach Xavier at his house, something Xavier had to sneak away after school to learn from him. The trainer was from Malta and had coached in Detroit. Xavier felt incredibly comfortable with his teaching methods—even though he wasn’t taught how to punch for five months. They focused on footwork and defense until he was as quick as he could be, and then he was taught how to punch. Then, sadly, Xavier’s trainer died about a year later—leaving a letter telling Xavier that he believed in him, that he would be a champion someday.
“A boxer or a fighter has to behave like a fighter when the time comes.”
Xavier’s trainer made such an impact in his life that it resulted in him becoming a teacher at first, then as a SENCO (Special Education Needs Co-ordinator) teacher, and finally as a trainer in boxing. While teaching in school Xavier met his now business partner and they discussed what would become IQ Boxing—a center for coaching and training boxers. IQ boxing trains without taking anything financial from their fighters and they can train starting at any skill level. They make training tailored to each fighter, there isn’t a blanket training program that applies to everyone. Xavier sees their job as protecting their fighter and taking them as far as they can go, which isn’t just becoming a world champion—winning any title is an achievement in Xavier’s mind, as is the journey of helping others be the best they can be in all aspects of their lives.
“There’s other coaches at this gym which are supporting young people and that’s what’s supposed to happen, you’re supposed to pass on what you know.”