Nino Severino: Sport saves lives, and Anthony Joshua is a shining example

Anthony Joshua has turned his life around. Picture: PA SPORT

Anthony Joshua has turned his life around. Picture: PA SPORT - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

In his first weekly column Nino Severino looks at the power of sport for good, highlighting Anthony Joshua’s remarkable story, discusses a life-changing meeting with Rio Ferdinand, and his friendship with Judy Murray.

A meeting with Rio Ferdinand was a key moment in Nino's life. Picture: BBC

A meeting with Rio Ferdinand was a key moment in Nino's life. Picture: BBC - Credit: PA

Nino Severino, one of the best-known sporting faces in Suffolk, will be writing a brand new weekly column for us. A former national champion in kickboxing and karate, he went on to guide his wife, the late Elena Baltacha, to the British number one spot, a top 50 ranking in world tennis and the 2012 Olympic Games.

A renowned coach and trainer, he has worked with the Ipswich Town Academy and several world-class athletes.

I recently posted a blog about sport being a solution for those finding themselves straying off the straight and narrow and into unacceptable behaviour. I wanted to follow this up by using a high profile sports personality who found sport as their saviour.

The person I want to focus on is Anthony Joshua, who currently is the heavyweight boxing world champion.

This in itself is an incredible achievement, but what makes this near to a minor miracle is the fact that Anthony did not start boxing until he was 18 and for me, as an ex-fighter, that is mind-blowing.

Anthony would be the first to admit that he has not always been the great role model that he is today, and he was close to a life of crime in his youth.

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It could have all been so different if he had not committed 100% to a sport.

Judy Murray has been a huge support to Nino, and the Elena Baltacha Foundation. Picture: ARCHANT

Judy Murray has been a huge support to Nino, and the Elena Baltacha Foundation. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Sport embeds certain aspects into your life – focus, routine, and mental and physical discipline. All great elements that protect young people from the negative temptations in life.

Anthony Joshua is not the only young man to be saved by sport, the list is endless, but he is a shining example.

I believe the earlier a child adds sport to their life, the better.

It’s fantastic to read that the ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand has found love again. As a widower I know the emotional trauma that this man has had to endure, and I wish him and ‘Towie’ star Kate Wright all the best for the future.

Reading this story took me back to when mine and Rio’s life paths crossed, it was one of those pivotal events that affected me and my life.

I invented a training system called Footsport Dynamics and presented it at a professional sports conference at the NEC in Birmingham.

Some of the Manchester United representatives attended and watched my demonstration and, on my drive back home, I got a call from my office saying that they had bought the system.

Within a week I was on my way to the world-renowned Manchester United training ground at Carrington.

I set my equipment out and waited for the under-18 squad to appear, there was a door that I was told they were going to come through and I was expecting a group of young players with big dreams.

What happened next was a moment I will never forget!

There was a big bang, the door flung open and a young first team player called Wayne Rooney came bounding energetically into the training area. He was followed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand.

Rooney was very friendly and started some banter and I had an inspirational conversation with Ole, before seeing Rio and the rest of the first team members all moving outside for their training session.

I then did what I was there to do and delivered the session for the under-18 players.

All of us go through life changing moments and this experience validated how much I loved working with elite athletes, and motivated me even further to keep developing my craft and see where this life path of coaching would take me!

I’m privileged to say I have some great people from the world of sport in my life, Judy Murray being one of them.

Not only was she a great support to me when Elena was fighting cancer, but also after Elena passed, she was there, unconditionally.

Judy has in the past, wrongly been seen as quite a hard personality, a tough tennis mum, but this could not be further from the truth.

I’m so pleased that through her involvement in Strictly Come Dancing the public have connected with her and have got to know the real Judy Murray, a warm, intelligent lady with a great personality.

I’m looking forward to telling you all about Judy’s involvement on a local level as a patron of The Elena Baltacha Foundation.

She has been there right from the beginning when Elena asked her for support when we were working hard to get the foundation off the ground.

Judy absolutely loved Elena and she said yes immediately when asked. She has visited Ipswich on a number of occasions and has represented the foundation nationally as well.

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