East London's Real McCoyBella Saltiel interviews the owner of the East London Boxing Club for St James Big Local
One way or another, Fayaz Masamyar has been fighting for the majority of his life, whether in the ring or at protests against the regime in his former home.
He started boxing as a child, taught by his uncle, Muhammad Shafiq. Back in Afghanistan, which Fayaz left at just 16, Muhammad was a professional boxer, who competed in multiple Asian Championships.
“Definitely he always loved to have someone in the family to keep his legacy alive," Fayaz says, "His dream was to make me a boxer.”
An injury has since made that dream impossible but, when not studying to become a doctor, the 23-year-old has found a new way to pursue his passion in Walthamstow.
Fayaz, centre left (credit: Boris Vajda)
The East London Boxing Club gym opened in St James Mews in 2017. “I was a fighter," Fayaz explains, "And when I stopped boxing I thought: let me do something to help the community and help myself stay fit."
He says he will always recommend physical exercise to patients if appropriate and encourages everyone to try it out, particularly women. “Women should know boxing isn’t just for competition," he adds, "It can be a great way to release energy after work. It’s not just about the physical exercise but the mental exercise."
And Fayaz could use a project to occupy his mind, given his concerns about the family he still has back home. "I’m still shocked at what just happened to Afghanistan," he says, recalling the Taliban takeover earlier this year, "My family are not safe and every day the worries are getting more and more."
What keeps his spirits up is how "happy and honoured" he is to protest against the regime and the small reminders of home he is able to find around Walthamstow. In particular, he says the best place to east Afghan food is Afghan Kabila in High Street, Walthamstow, where he recommends the Kabili and kebab.
Lessons at the club opposite St James Street Station are less than a tenner and Fayaz hopes this will help encourage people of all levels of fitness to take up the sport that "truly transformed" his life.
He explains: "The lessons and discipline from this highly competitive sport has brought me such a long way. Boxing taught me skills which I have applied to all areas of my life."
Find out more about the East London Boxing Club on their website here.