Oliver Wilson is a former professional boxer, Hollywood stuntman and rock band bodyguard. His upbringing was also scarred by poverty and abuse. Here he explains how he now uses his life experience to mentor boys and young men from similar backgrounds to his own.
— This is article #72 in our series of #100Voices4 Men and boys
Coming from a background of eleven children and facing many hardships, I found the motivation and drive to change my life for the better.
On many days my family were faced by the dilemma of heat or eat, and on certain days we did not even have those options.
As my father’s alcoholism and gambling became worse I found myself homeless at the age of fourteen. I will never forget the day when my family was faced with eviction from our house, my dad sat at the kitchen table gambling in a card den whilst the bailiffs watched over his shoulder asking him for the outstanding rent, to which he replied “I will give it to you when I have finished this hand.”
As fate would have it that was my father’s last hand, he lost and the bailiffs removed the chair from under him. The whole family was cast out onto the street and watched as the house was boarded up. It was one of the most painful times I’ve ever been faced with in my life — where were we going to live and how were we going to survive this predicament?
Impoverished, hungry and violently abused by my father, this resulted in me spending five years in foster care. Food was scarce and it was one of the prime motivators for me to want more!
‘They could feel an empathy with me’
Although it’s not unusual for a poor black boy, born in Britain, to turn to sport; I channelled my energy into boxing and became a boxing champion; I later used this as a stepping stone to succeed beyond the ring.
I created a non-contact boxing motivational program, where men and boys attend, to get fit, get rid of their frustrations, and talk openly about their issues. I assess their problems and direct them to the correct organization to help them.
Through meeting with the young men and boys and relating this story they could feel an empathy with me, as many of them have suffered similar experiences in their lives.
In the 21st century we are surrounded by technology and gadgets — from phones and tablets, to iPods and androids — while men and boys are being prescribed medication because of the lack of interaction.
Men and boys do cry from the breakdown of family life caused by a myriad of outside influence including gambling, drugs, alcohol and their family’s dysfunction.
I believe men and boys need personal connections with positive male role models who can understand where they are coming from.
Picture Credit: Gray Clark / Trinity Mirror Southern
Oliver Wilson is a former professional boxer, Hollywood stuntman and bodyguard for Led Zeppelin and The Who. To contact Oliver and find out more about Boxfusion — his non-contact boxing motivational program — visit the Boxing Inclusion Zone website.
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men’s Day 2014 by clicking on this link—#100Voices4Men—and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
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