A young Bury star has opened up about her boxing journey after community efforts to make a difference and reduce knife crime.

Ashia Riaz, 16, who is the head student at Derby High School, has been awarded a Bury Young Achiever award for her efforts and dedication to make a difference in the community.

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The star pupil, who started boxing aged six, said she never thought her work would be recognised, and hopes to continue making a difference through her love of boxing.

She said: “Boxing became a huge aspect of my life from that very moment I stepped into the ring.

“l embarked on my boxing journey with role models like Muhammad Ali, Layla Ali and my father but as a Muslim woman of colour, I wished for an uprise in the number of women in the boxing industry.”

Ashia’s aspirations to become an amateur boxer then pro-boxer sparked her ambition to further help her community, encourage diversity and to inspire other girls her age.

Although in 2020 her boxing journey temporarily hindered by Covid, Ashia later joined the Bury Defence Academy as a boxer.

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She said: “The academy soon became my second home.

“As I started to attend more regularly I saw a lot of younger kids seek interest and comfort in boxing and it reminded me of my younger self and how I began my journey.

“This filled me with aspiration to help and support them as a young inspirational individuals and a week after joining, I started to volunteer weekly.”

Having helped different coaches with the different classes, she soon created great rapports with everyone, especially the children that attended regularly.

Supporting those at the gym was described by Ashia as a “huge learning privilege” that eventually led to her becoming a coach.

She said: “After a year of helping out with boxing classes, I was offered the opportunity to become Bury Defence Academy’s first homegrown female boxing coach.

“I was elated to have been given a lifetime’s worth of opportunity, and be in a position where my aspirations can strive and I could understand and inspire the younger generations and the ones yet to come.”

Ashia teaches a range of age groups, volunteers in weekly classes outside of school and recently spoke to Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham on how to prevent knife crime and the influence of the Bury Defence Academy.

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She said: “As a part of my determination to guide and support young individuals, I also had the chance to teach Andy a bit of boxing during our encounter!

“My identity has played a huge role in my passion for boxing and helping others, and so being recognised for it has been a huge privilege and something I am quite proud of.”

Staff at her school have also shared their pride after Ashia won the Bury Young Achievers award and was a runner up for Rising Star of Bury at the BAME Project awards ceremony.

She said: “Honestly, I never thought I would receive such recognition, and it’s been an honour.

“I hope I can continue to make a difference through my love of boxing and my passion to help others, and even hopefully inspire other young people to follow their passions and reach for the stars!”

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