Photo gallery and video: Former boxing champion Jon Thaxton lends his support to new Parkinson’s Fighters group

Boxer, Jon Thaxton, 2nd right, trains three Parkinson's patients, boxing techniques to help lesson their symptoms. With him from left, Mark Whitworth, Dale Sherriff and Niki Oldroyd. Picture: Denise Bradley Boxer, Jon Thaxton, 2nd right, trains three Parkinson's patients, boxing techniques to help lesson their symptoms. With him from left, Mark Whitworth, Dale Sherriff and Niki Oldroyd. Picture: Denise Bradley

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
11:23 AM

Former champion Jon Thaxton has coached hundreds of boxers since his retirement from the sport.

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But three new recruits are showing their determination to battle against an incurable disease and help change people’s attitudes to Parkinson’s Disease.

A new Parkinson’s Fighters group has been set up in Norwich to help people diagnosed with the neuro-degenerative disease to experience the benefits of a weekly boxing class.

Mr Thaxton, who won European and British lightweight boxing titles during his 17 year career, has given up his time to coach the patients, who say their condition has improved since they started the hour-long sessions in January.

Mark Whitworth, 42, of Thorpe, who is an ex-roofer and boxing enthusiast, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s four years ago. He approached Mr Thaxton after he, Niki Oldroyd and Dale Sherriff attended a World Parkinson’s Congress in Canada last year where they learnt about the benefits of boxing for people with the disease.

They are hoping more people with Parkinson’s will join their group as they try to raise more money and awareness of the debilitating condition.

Mr Thaxton, a lifelong friend of Mr Whitworth said: “With the system I have in the art of boxing, I feel it has helped him a lot and it is improving his life. I see an improvement every week and his progress has been coming up at a good rate.

“I did not know too much about Parkinson’s, but I am learning as I go along. It is a terrible illness and we need to raise awareness,” he said.

Mr Whitworth, who set up charity Parkinsons Ride four years ago for younger people affected by the disease, said a lot of people thought the condition only affected older people.

“I know the shots but I can’t pull them off because of the Parkinson’s. It helps me tremendously and I want to come to training. Jon is a close friend - he broke my nose when I was 14-years-old old in the ring. Parkinson’s really needs this boxing in Great Britain and he said he would help,” he said.

Mrs Oldroyd, 46, of Horstead, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at 24, said the boxing had helped her balance.

“Jon has made me slow down and not rush things. When you are boxing you have to be steady on your feet and when I am finding it difficult to walk I get into the boxing stance and I am not falling so much.”

“There is no cure and we need money for a cure and awareness to show that we are not drunk or odd. We have a disease and we have to cope with it,” she said.

Dale Sherriff, 46, of Coltishall, who was diagnosed ten years ago, added that he hoped others would join Parkinson’s Fighters.

“It is all about getting exercise and getting the endorphins flowing. It really does help - my movement is a lot better and my coordination is better.”

“Recently a bus driver in Norwich refused to let me on the bus because he thought I was drunk – when I told him I had Parkinson’s he didn’t believe me at first – life can be frustrating but the boxing helps mentally and physically,” he said.

A demonstration class will be taking place at 7pm on Friday April 4 at Norwich Diamonds Amateur Boxing Club, in Dereham Road, New Costessey, to which all members of the Norfolk Parkinson’s community are invited.

For more information, visit www.parkinsonsride.co.uk or email info@parkinsonsride.co.uk

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