CHARLIE Flynn is a fighter defined by his career and character. The Commonwealth Games gold medallist knows his path towards a world title fight is well mapped out, with his next professional fight booked in on the undercard on an illustrious night of boxing at the Manchester Arena on 18 July, but he recognises that others are less sure of their futures and lack the confidence and the support needed to keep scrapping.
An inspirational force for many of the 20 young people who have benefited from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust’s first Get On Track programme, which expanded into Scotland at the start of the year, he was at Murrayfield yesterday to recognise their efforts and offer his unique words of wisdom.
The purpose of the programme, which was led by fellow Glasgow 2014 gold medallist, judoka Sarah Clark, is to mentor disadvantaged young people, helping them learn new skills and bolster their self-esteem in the hope it will pave their way into further education, training or employment.
It’s a cause Flynn believes in. “It’s good to let people know that it’s never too late to make a start in life, whether it’s through sport or anything else,” he said.
“We all had to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you are an early starter or a late starter, you need people to help you along the way.
“One of the best world champion boxers ever, Martinez, was something like 24 when he started and Anthony Joshua only started boxing four years before he won the Olympics, so you can always start new things, it’s never too late. Anything can happen in short space of time and it can turn your life around.
One of the best things you can do for someone who is shy is get them into sportCharlie Flynn
“If you find something you are good at, you don’t need to be a world champion, you don’t need to do anything special, but if you find something that makes your life better, gets you into a routine and gives you a focus and you are comfortable and it gets you out a rut or bad way of living then that’s great.”
Identifying sport is a great way to increase self-belief, according to Flynn, who claims that despite his gallus public personna, he is very shy.
“Sport is great for meeting people in the community, for getting out and about and great for your confidence and building your personality,” he added. “It is one of the best things you can do for someone who is shy. Get them into sport. Before long they come out their shell.
“I am actually shy. I am. Nobody believes me when I say that but I don’t really say much normally. But when people interview you or people want to talk then you get on with it.
“I was one of the shyest people ever. I would never really talk to anybody and before the Games I would never have gone before people and talked, but after the Games it was kinda just forced on me and straight after the Games I was asked if I wanted to go and give an inspirational talk to all the Scottish rowers [ahead of the Commonwealth Rowing Championships] and I was like, ‘aye, nae bother!’ But I never had a clue what I was going to say and I never prepped anything but I’ve never prepped anything in my life, so I went in there and it was like something out of Braveheart. They were all sitting down watching me and I was pacing up and down and shouting and I really don’t know what they thought, but in the next event they ended up getting a record amount of medals. It’s hilarious, so regardless of all their years of hard work, I’m claiming the credit.”
But, as he memorably claimed during the Commonwealth Games, “The Mailman” always delivers.
Flynn has won his first three professional fights and, given his energy, it is impressive that he is taking things slowly, gradually building up to the level he believes he can reach.
First up he will be one of the warm-up acts for Scott Quigg as he defends his WBA world super bantamweight title against Kiko Martinez & Anthony Crolla as he takes on Darleys Perez for the WBA world lightweight title at the Manchester Arena on 18 July.
There are also a couple of British titles up for grabs that night but Flynn is content to bide his time.
“It’s about slowly building up and getting the experience and learning,” he said. “I think that’s the way to do it. It’s all about learning and learning without getting beat.
“We are in it to go all the way. There’s no point in doing this halfway. Half a job is no good to anybody, so I’m dedicating myself to being the best and going all the way to a world title and we believe I can do it. My managers, my family, my dad, my trainer – everybody believes I can do it but we have been saying that from day one. Now it’s just a case of doing it.”
“But I’m only young so there’s no point in rushing in,” added the 21 year old. “Vasyl Lomachenko did that. After winning gold medals at two Olympics, he fought for a world title in his second fight as a pro and he lost so there’s no rush. The professional game is very different from the amateur game so it takes a while to get used to it. You are usually talking about a world title shot by the time you’re 26 on average.”
Far from average, he says that having that belief and the right people around him simply underlines the value of the Get On Track programme, which is also supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery.
“This gives the young people a foundation and gives them a chance. They might have been going through bad times but this gives them a chance and everyone involved is helping them in any way they can.
“And it seems that the more they embrace it, the more they get out of it and they have got more and more confident and that’s important because I really believe that anybody in society can rise to greatness regardless of where you came from. It is harder for some people but it can be done and that is the truth of it.”