The Apprentice star offers free classes at her new boxing gym in Camberwell

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Having just opened a new boxing gym in Camberwell, The Apprentice’s Marnie Swindells talks to the News about going on the show, why she loves living in Peckham and what she hopes her new venture will do for the community.

Marnie Swindells is currently on this series of BBC’s The Apprentice, where she is battling it out to become Lord Sugar’s next business partner. Whilst the show nears its end, the 28-year-old, who lives in Peckham, is focusing on her true love; boxing.

Having boxed in New Cross for over ten years, she has just transformed a derelict building in Camberwell into a fully equipped gym, Bronx.

To celebrate the opening, they are offering all sessions free this week (until Sunday, March 5).

Marnie said young people were a ‘motivating factor’ for starting this venture after she saw the positive impact it could have on them at Double Jab Gym in New Cross: “There was one kid we had who was referred to us from the Youth Offender Service and he had to spend a set amount of hours in the gym,” she explained.

“At first, he would come and just sit there disinterested with his coat on. But every week he would gradually get more and more into it – cut to now, he’s a champion boxer. Watching that transition is one of the most amazing things about boxing gyms.”

Marnie said they’ve secured partnerships with St Giles’ Trust – a local charity that supports vulnerable people in difficult situations – and with the Met Police. At Double Jab, they currently have the police officers train as boxing coaches and come and run the sessions – trying to mend relationships between young people and the Met.

“We get concerns all the time where people are worried that it’s punching, it’s fighting, it’s aggression – I can’t tell you how much of a myth that is. “I think it has the total opposite effect. Once kids go into a boxing gym maybe they do some sparring – especially if they thought they were a tough kid before, it really works to humble them.

“I used to get into little scraps when I was young, and boxing helped me realise I didn’t need to prove myself anymore.

“Most of the time – with young boys it helps them to really release all their energy. They also find a lot of mentors by default with the older guys there.”

With a new gym and a barrister degree under her belt, it would seem she knows exactly what she’s doing – so why did she apply for The Apprentice?

“The business I went on the show to get Lord Sugar’s investment for was to open a second site,” she explained. “Knowing how long it took to do this gym, the £250,000 would really help speed up the process.

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“I’ve watched the show for so many years and you just sit there at home and think ‘why did they do that – I could do better.’ So I put my money where my mouth is and applied.”

Having now experienced it first-hand, Marnie admitted it isn’t as easy as people may think.

“It’s definitely harder than it is when you’re relaxed at home thinking you could do better. The situations are pressured and being business owners, we’re all leaders, which makes it more difficult,” she said.

On living in Peckham, Marnie said: “Peckham’s just got so much character and it’s so vibrant – and I can’t see myself living anywhere else in London other than this area. It’s just got such a community feel to it.

“I feel like an adopted south Londoner.”

She explained that although she has lots of commitments because of being on the show, she still plans to be involved in the gym. “I’m hoping to be down there running some sessions so people can see the face behind the gym – I think that’s important, especially for women.

“I’m already getting a lot of female enquiries because I think it’s nice to see a woman running it.”

Female boxing was only added to the Olympic Games in 2012. Marnie explained that when she was starting out, it was hard to find other women to fight, as it was so uncommon. “I started boxing before 2012. It was really hard to get fights back then; at the time there were only six women on the database in the whole of the UK to fight.”

She said although she is focusing on business, if she ever does go back to the ring – it would ‘never’ be as a celebrity boxer.

“I’d hate to be considered as an influencer or celebrity boxer – I’d wanna do it the real way, in the community halls, in the working men’s clubs – I love boxing when it’s authentic.”

She added that her goal is to keep opening sites until Bronx is the ‘go-to-name’ for boxing gyms.

“As it stands there’s not one go-to name for boxing gyms so I want to change that.”

Catch Marnie on The Apprentice on Thursdays at 9 pm on BBC One and catch up on all episodes so far on BBC iPlayer.

Bronx Gym Ltd is offering all sessions free this week until Sunday (March 5). To claim this offer, choose your session on their website here and use promo code ‘FREE’ when booking.

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