“Six mats, one bag, one speed ball, one pair of old gloves and some carpet. That’s all we had, but we got through.”

by Rebecca Mugridge

Starting small can lead to big things. Oneheart Training Academy Founder Charlie Wetere says when he realised that he wanted to help kids, his life changed. And now for the kids he mentors and trains, their lives change too.

Many parents say Charlie is the heart in Oneheart, a boxing school run out of C-Square in Nambour. From the club’s very humble beginnings to now boasting not one, but two state champion finalists already this year.

Charlie firmly believes that our youth today need support, mentoring, second chances and places they feel safe. 

 “It took me a while to find my path. I used to play football and then I smashed my knee. That really threw me, but that also led to me taking up martial arts.” 

But it wasn’t until much later that he realised his calling.

“I met the Morcombes and that really opened my eyes. I learnt a lot about the dangers up against children from the Daniel Morcombe foundation. 

“I was in martial arts and things for about 25 years, and they helped me see that it was a gift and I decided to share it. I wanted to mentor kids. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am now. 

“I saw all the bullying going on out there. I saw the kids with autism being bullied; I saw kids struggling for a lot of reasons. I realised what my calling was, and that was working with kids.

“I started a club called Daniel’s Dragons, named after their son Daniel, and I trained all these kids in my backyard for free and then it just grew and grew.”

Eventually the club grew so much it moved to C-Square Nambour, and on its way to the successful space it is today, with a reputation for producing some very strong boxing talent.

Young boxer Ruby Pokarier, at just 14, has been making her mark on the boxing scene for the last three years. Queensland prodigy, fellow boxer and good friend, Jai Henderson, burst onto the scene in 2020 competing after just three months in the sport!

They have both now been selected for the Queensland team for the Australian Titles in March.

For Ruby’s mum, DéAnne Pokarier, her daughter’s boxing career was a welcome surprise. “February 2019 was the first time she picked up gloves. Her bullying was really bad at the time. 

“I also have a son with autism and our goal was to get him into boxing and then Ruby wanted to come so we took all the kids.

“From the moment she picked up gloves Charles said, ‘She’s a natural. Bring her back!’” DéAnne  laughs. “I thought, ‘Oh, he is probably just being nice’, but in under a year she was in a ring.”

And fighting up she does, impressively overcoming severe bullying that shattered her to the core, to become the fierce, unstoppable talented boxing star she is today, with the world at her feet. 

DéAnne says Charlie has a bit of a knack for finding talent. 

“He just sees it; he sees who has not just the motivation and skills, but the passion.”

Charlie proudly remembers Ruby’s beginnings. “It was also a bit of a struggle too as she was so little, I couldn’t find anybody to fight her in her weight, she had to go up and they were all giants next to her,” he says.

“They are all a lot taller; she only fights up!” laughs her mum.

Jai’s mum, Lee Henderson, says they were inspired to bring Jai to Oneheart after learning of Ruby’s story overcoming bullying, anxiety and depression through boxing. 

“Jai had experienced bullying. When he first started, he couldn’t look Charlie in the eye, his anxiety was so high and now he is just so confident and open, and humble. 

“What he went through, you sort of forget their journey and where they come from and where they are now. We never expected him to be where he is today.” 

Jai is an inspiration on many levels, an incredibly talented boxer with autism and hypermobility syndrome, which prevents him from being unable to do a full contact sport. He is guided under the watchful eye of Charlie, who works carefully with a physio to ensure Jai trains safely.

“We never expected this. We just wanted him to enjoy the ride and now the ride is getting him titles,” smiles his mum about his achievements.

And, surprisingly, there aren’t as many injuries as one might think for a sport like boxing.

“It’s actually a very controlled sport, with a lot less injuries than some other sports. A few black eyes from training, but Jai has had more injuries outside the ring than he has in the ring!” Lee says.

“Ruby too! Broke her collarbone in half, but it wasn’t in the ring!” chimes in DéAnne.

“Tripping over my own feet,” laughs Ruby

Charlie says boxing is a powerful sport with many benefits, in addition to the competitive side, from self-esteem boosting and confidence, to bringing kids out of their shell. And all while one of the hardest cardio sports out there.

It is great for fitness, physicality and mental health. “There is so much respect in the sport too. Good cardio, great mindset.

“It’s just you in that ring, and it takes a lot of heart to hop in there through those ropes.”

He nods. “These kids have come a long way.”

You can find Oneheart Training Academy on Facebook

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