Former boxing champ Jon Thaxton shows how to fight Parkinson’s disease

Boxer Jon Thaxton sparring with Mark Whitworth at the Dereham Hospital's summer fete. Picture: Ian Burt Boxer Jon Thaxton sparring with Mark Whitworth at the Dereham Hospital's summer fete. Picture: Ian Burt

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
6:30 AM

A former boxing champ visited a Dereham fete to show how his sport can help carry the fight against Parkinson’s disease for sufferers who share his battling qualities.

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Boxer John Thaxton sparring with Gerald Bush at the Dereham Hospital's summer fete. Picture: Ian BurtBoxer John Thaxton sparring with Gerald Bush at the Dereham Hospital's summer fete. Picture: Ian Burt

Norwich boxer Jon Thaxton, who won the European and British lightweight titles in his 17-year career, sparred with visitors to the Friends of Dereham Hospital fete on Saturday.

He also demonstrated a training programme which he has developed to help people with Parkinson’s to improve their co-ordination and fitness.

Among those who join the former champion for his weekly training sessions is Mark Whitworth, from Thorpe St Andrew in Norwich, who was diagnosed four years ago at the age of just 38.

He said he found that most of the support groups were tailored for the needs of older people.

“Everybody relates to it as an older person’s illness, but one in 20 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s is under the age of 40,” he said.

“Over the years Jon has come up with a technique which is especially good for hand-eye co-ordination and feet movement. One of the things I struggle with is getting dressed. I depend on my wife to do my shoelaces but I can get my boxing gloves on a lot quicker. I have benefited from this tremendously. When I come out of the gym, Jon is so motivational and it is a high you cannot get from any drug.”

Gerald Bush, 70, from Shipdham, is another regular at the boxer’s work-outs at Norwich Diamonds boxing club on Dereham Road in Norwich.

“When I started doing this eight weeks ago, I walked with a stick for support,” he said. “I don’t use it now. It has done wonders with my balance. I still cannot walk very well, but at least I can stand up.

“We may have Parkinson’s but Parkinson’s doesn’t have us. That’s our motto.”

Mr Thaxton, who has also coached hundreds of boxers since retiring from the ring in 2009, said: “I am working with people aged from their 40s to their 70s, right through the scale. I can see the improvement in everyone.

“I am still learning about the disease. I think of it like when a person has a stutter, but when they sing they don’t stutter. With this, people have the shakes, but when they are boxing and they know my system they are fluent all the way through it.

“They might start off shaking, but when they listen to me they get their punches straight and their hooks and combinations right. They are working their muscles, their hearts and the endorphins get working too – and they leave the gym a different person.

“It is one step at a time. We are moving forward slowly and it is about getting the awareness out there. I had a lot of help in my career, and it is nice to give a little bit back.”

The fete, which raised money for Dereham Hospital funds, was opened by BBC weather presenter Julie Reinger, and also included live music, dancing displays and stalls from communuity groups and charities.

For more information about the Jon Thaxton’s training sessions, see www.parkinsonsfighter.co.uk.

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