Former world boxing champion Paul Butler showed off his IBF belt during a visit to meet the youngsters training at West Auckland Boxing Gym.

The 32-year-old, nicknamed the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’, was shown around the community facility and spoke with founder Stephen Nicholson, together with the gym’s coaches and sponsors.

Paul, who has held multiple regional titles, including British and Commonwealth super-fly weight, held the IBF bantamweight title in 2014 aged 25, later relinquishing it to return to super-flyweight.

The Chester-born fighter – whose record currently stands at 32 wins, 2 losses and no draws – is passionate about encouraging youngsters to progress in the sport, having trained juniors at the Wirral’s CP Club, where he himself started out as a 10-year-old.

He said: “West Auckland Boxing Gym is a first-class facility and it’s great to meet so many people who clearly have a passion for the sport and who recognise the host of benefits it provides for those young people taking part.”

The gym was set up by Stephen, founder and managing director of bespoke decorating firm S Nicholson & Sons, who grew up in the village and has had a lifelong love of the sport.

He bought the former youth club building, which had been empty for around four years, and converted it into a boxing gym last year.

Stephen said: “It was a privilege to meet Paul and it meant a huge amount for a boxer of his talent and pedigree to take time out to offer inspiration to the youngsters training here. He is a true role model.”

He also thanked two local businesses who are supporting the gym. Andrew Jackson, director of Bishop Auckland-based A-Byte Computer Solutions, has provided branded t-shirts and baseball caps for the members, coaches, and staff, while Mark Batey, managing director of Durham-based fleet management and vehicle finance company Q Fleet, has donated an Assault AirBike to expand the gym’s training facilities.

Stephen added: “It’s great to see so much backing for this community venture, and everyone here is incredibly grateful for their generous and continued support.”