TOP boxer Tony Bellew traded mini blows with adoring youngsters at Bluebell Wood and said: “I hope this place goes on forever.”
The former ABA heavyweight and WBC cruiserweight champion toured the children’s hospice ahead of a fundraising event.
Tony (34), who trains in Rotherham, said: “This is an unbelievable place. I can’t speak highly enough of it.
“A hospital doesn’t necessarily bring you any happiness.
“It’s not a place for happiness, it’s for treatment and a lot of the time it’s: ‘Get you in, get you out’.
“And the Government has no place like this.
“I suppose they’ll say there’s no money to fund it, but Bluebell Wood is changing lives. It’s letting people remember their children the best way.
“It has everything and the open space makes it feel like you’re out in the countryside.
“I hope this place can go on forever.”
Among the children to meet Tony last Friday were Ibraheem Nadeem (14), of Clifton, and his brother Abbas (12).
Mum Taz said: “They’ve been lost for words.
“Ibraheem used to do boxing before he got poorly and Abbas missed his lesson today to come along.
“Ibraheem got his T-shirt signed too, so I think that will be going on the wall.”
Tony said: “The children are so happy.
“They look at me like I’m King Kong but really I’m just a fella who’s succeeded in a sport. It’s heart-warming to be looked at like that.
“I’ve got three little boys and to see these kids, it breaks my heart, but they are in what I can only say is a dream complex.
“It’s unbelievable that this place has been open for the amount of time it has, touching on ten years now, with no government money.
“I can’t stress enough how amazing it really is.”
Tony left a pair of fight-worn shorts for auction before heading to a speaking event at Hellaby Hall Hotel, also in aid of the North Anston charity.
And the Liverpool-born star admits Rotherham feels like a second home since joining trainer David Coldwell, whose gym is at Masbrough.
He said: “A large part of the last four years of my life has been spent in Rotherham.
“It’s been great and I can’t thank my coach enough.
“I do everything on my own, whether it’s going to Parkgate, and to different stores, to Nando’s.
“It used to be satnav to get everywhere but now it’s like a second home.
“Satnav is not needed in Rotherham or Sheffield any more.”