IT was at Haverstock School in Camden that Cuban Boxing Academy founder Marcos Camejo met a champion who would rival all others.
On this day, 45-year-old Marcos – a former Cuban national coach with 25 years of boxing experience with Olympic and World Championship boxers – was visiting the school to promote the benefits of a non-contact workshop.
Even though the 350-calorie burn of a one-hour punch bag session offers clear health benefits, the dynamic sport is known for honing physical and mental discipline.
As the Haverstock youngsters eagerly waited on his words, Marcos noticed a boy barely able to stand, who was aided by a metal frame.
That boy, Babachuwe (Baba) Tabase, 17, explained: “At that time, I thought I could only live my life between two metal rails, which was my K Walker.”
Marcos noticed Baba’s courageous determination to take part in the session and believed he could make a difference in the boy’s life.
The Cuban Boxing Academy adopts an approach unlike other clubs.
The four-year-old non-profit society, run from Hanwell Community Centre, is not just interested in producing amateur boxers.
“We have applied a holistic approach, looking after human beings first and foremost,” said founder and head coach Marcos.
Impressed by Baba’s mental strength that day, a determined Marcos burnt the midnight oil to prepare a physical and psychological plan to help him.
Marcos knew then that helping Baba would not be a simple process for either of them.
But, the journey of development from that day in 2011 to today could not have been foreseen.
The next day, Baba’s key workers were happily surprised with the plan Marcos presented to them.
An agreement for funding was made, and Marcos and Baba began their training sessions together at the Cuban Boxing Academy.
Baba was a healthy child until the age of 11, when he was involved in a sporting accident that left him suffering from encephalitis, with partial paralysis and lack of muscle co-ordination.
“Within a year, I had doubled the time I spent with Baba and, in this time, the bond between us and my bond with his family grew,” said Marcos.
“Sessions were very tiring,” said Baba. “It has pushed me to my limits, but it has all done a good job because look at me now – I am doing something doctors and nurses cannot believe!”
In May last year, funding was cut, but Marcos looks back at their journey together and is proud of his charge and his achievements.
“It is not an easy path,” he said. “It requires trust, sacrifice, step by step. I do personally believe anything is possible if you really try.”
Regardless of the lost funding, Marcos has retained a steely resolve to finish they started together.
Marcos still continues to work with Baba and supports him in all aspects of his life.
He said: “Hopefully, in the future, not long from now, we are going to get to another level and in better condition.
“I am going to finish when I see Baba run and I am going to cry that day.”
Against medical advice, Baba already walks without the support of the frame, using crutches.
“Marcos has really shown me I can do anything I want to achieve in life,” he said.
Baba can now deal with daily routines independently and his world is open to opportunities he dared not dream of in the past.
Future goals include walking independently with one crutch and going to university.
Marcos is currently looking for funding to get Baba over to Cuba for a warm-weather boot camp.
“I believe, with the rehabilitation facilities available there, Baba can make huge steps to making a complete recovery,” said Marcos.
He believes it was the willpower and inner strength of a champion that drove Baba to successfully develop his mobility.
While Baba may never compete in recognised sport, he will always be a champion in Marcos’ eyes.
If you would like to help pay for Baba’s rehabilitation trip to Cuba or donate to the Cuban Boxing Academy in Hanwell, contact Marcos Camejo at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 07881 424068.