The man who has been the driving force behind Lympstone Amateur Boxing Club for more than 40 years has seen his efforts rewarded, after being named as BBC South West’s Sporting Unsung Hero of the year.

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But Neil Parsons says that for him, awards mean little compared to the satisfaction he gets from helping young people improve their lives.

Neil was nominated for the award by Julian Wills of Sported, who recently helped the club secure funds to extend its gym.

Having been named as one of the five finalists, Neil was surprised by BBC’s Hamish Marshall, who turned up to the gym to present Neil with the award.

Neil said: “When they came and ambushed me I was completely gobsmacked, and didn’t know what to say. For once, I was speechless!

“You don’t do what we do to get medals and things like that, it’s something you just do.

“It helps the kids get off the streets … I’ve had loads of kids come through my club over the past 44 years. Back in the ’60s we had some right little toerags and turned them around.

“Two or three of them have now got businesses that sponsor the club, and that’s what you get out of it, more than trophies - it’s about knowing you’ve done it and helped these kids out.”

During his 44 years at the club, Neil has held positions including chairman, treasurer, coach, competition organiser and fundraiser. Neil is currently the club’s secretary, and still commits over 25 hours a week to club activities.

As part of this, Neil works closely with local schools, and police and fire services to ensure young people with behavioural challenges are signposted to the club.

Having won the South West award, Neil will now join the other regional winners at the national Sports Personality of the Year awards, which will be broadcast live on BBC One this Sunday at 7.30pm.

One of these regional winners will then be named as the national Unsung Hero.

Neil said: “I doubt I’ll win that, but to be up there with all the stars and all the Olympians, and people like your Frank Brunos and your David Hayes will be fantastic.

“You don’t think it would happen to people like me, but obviously it does!”

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