Babs is an unsung sporting hero

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Harvinder “Babs” Kandola (second from right) with supported learning students from Royal Leamington Spa College.

HE’S the heart and soul of the community who’s given his time freely to inspire others achieve their goals through the sport of boxing and now Harvinder “Babs” Kandola has been named as the BBC Midlands Today Sports Unsung Hero for 2019.

Babs is a community leader whose boxing club has coached  hundreds of people from Warwick and Leamington to enable them to exercise and socialise in a safe place.

For many years Babs, who works with Royal Leamington Spa College’s (WCG) supported learning students, has devoted his free time to teaching people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities how to box at Fitzpatrick’s Boxing Club in Leamington..

Babs was surprised by the BBC Midlands Today team, who paid a visit to his boxing gym to deliver the award after he was nominated by people in the community.

Earlier this year, following a surge in the number of people attending the classes, Babs opened Leamington Community Boxing Club with the aim of reaching underrepresented groups.

Babs said: “I was really shocked to receive the award and I want to pay tribute to the other nominees, all of whom do tremendous work in their communities.

“I strongly believe that sport should be for everyone. Everything I do is for the people – young and old – in our community, and I’m thankful that I am able to make a positive difference to their lives.

“The most important thing for me is seeing people leave the gym feeling better and more confident about themselves than when they walked in. It’s really rewarding to be able to support them.”

While Babs enjoys working closely with young and aspiring boxers in Leamington and Warwick, he is equally committed to providing classes to those who want to train without risking a punch on the nose!

The award is also testament to the many years that Babs has devoted to youngsters across a range of sports.

He set up Leamington’s first Asian football team in the 1980s and organises a charity cricket match every year to honour Paratrooper Conrad Lewis from Claverdon, one of his former youth footballers, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

Babs will now go through to the national Unsung Hero Awards which will be announced at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Aberdeen in December.

“I’d love to meet Anthony Joshua,” said Babs. “He’s a terrific role model and a real inspiration to many of the young people who come to the boxing club. I also love cricket so I would also love to meet Ben Stokes.”

Babs added: “I am just thrilled to have received the award for the Midlands. I’m very proud of my community and am looking forward to supporting it for many years to come.”